In my new novel, The Wrong Side of Night, 9/11 serves as the backstory. The main character’s father and brother died on that day, with none of their remains ever found. We discover part way through the novel, however, that her brother actually managed to escape the North Tower and has been living life under a pseudonym for 18 years. When he returns, he brings with him memories of that horrible morning — what he saw and experienced as he was escaping the flames and the walls were crumbing and melting around him.
I wanted to use 9/11 in this novel because I know a man who is alive now due to one decision on that Tuesday morning — he decided to take a personal day. Everyone at his company who went to work that day died. His story has stayed with me, haunted me, for years. But I was also a bit afraid to use an event so horrific, so huge, it still seems hard to wrap one’s mind around. I had the responsibility of treating it with reverence, with accuracy, and with attention to every detail I was describing. There were days when I did nothing but research on 9/11. I would get to the end of the day and feel emptied out, numb. But I was also confident that I was meeting my goals of reverence and accuracy.
I had moved out of New York and back to California a couple of years before 9/11 happened, but like everyone I remember each moment of that day, as well as every emotion and every tear that fell. I also remember the aftermath, including Donald Trump’s crass comment about now having the tallest building in New York (which wasn’t true, but that isn’t the point.) And then, years later, came his claim of seeing Muslims in New Jersey cheering as the towers fell. Also not true.
Now he has shown even more disrespect for the horror of 9/11. He’s used it for a political ad designed to slam Rep. Ilhan Omar because of a reference she made to 9/11 which was taken out of context and made to look as if she was dismissing the worst attack ever on American soil. Donald Trump doesn’t care what happened on 9/11. I doubt he mourned the dead or wept for the families who were ripped open by loss. He was too busy measuring buildings and trying to convince everyone that his was now the tallest.
If you ever doubted his heartlessness, his crassness, his complete lack of empathy and appropriateness, consider the coldness of seeing 9/11 as a convenient political ad. I would suggest that Mr. Trump might want to go to the 9/11 Memorial, experience the reverence of that site. But I don’t think it would make any difference. He’d still just be measuring buildings and concocting ads.