What Inspires Us

Today is the anniversary of 9/11, a day to remember the somber events that happened just a half hour away from where I live. My neighbors escaped the tragedy because one decided to skip her conference at Windows on the World that morning, while another found herself scrambling late to work that day. Sadly, both neighbors lost many friends and colleagues who perished in the attack. Everyone has a story, a sad loss or a near-miss. My best friend nearly went into labor when she couldn’t locate her husband, but delivered a beautiful baby girl a few days later. It was a moment of fear and confusion pierced by birth and joy. It was a time that New Yorkers don’t forget. We remember to honor the memories of those who were killed–but to keep ourselves from getting lost in the dark, we look for what keeps us strong, what inspires us.

Image result for world trade memorial


Inspiration out of sadness is powerful stuff. It’s the stuff that can populate a story or a poem. It’s the stuff that sets our heads into a dark or misty place. And then there is the glass tower built out of the sadness. The moment when we CAN find the right words–and the architecture to rise up.

There comes a point every year at this time, during every reflection on an event like 9/11, when I need to reach for something to rescue me from the darker emotions. Right now, I’m glancing around, trying to imagine something brighter, bolder, lighter than this September angst.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit where my mind goes. Where does yours go?

There is an array of little figures staring back at me on my desk. I imagine for a moment that they can think about things, too. They’re all staring at me. It seems absurd to turn to them. I need to stay serious. But I don’t. I won’t. One plastic figurine of Greedo from Star Wars, has a laser aimed at me with a Post-It taped to his head (a post-it that’s been there for years now). The post-it says: WRITE or I will blast you with my laser. There’s a dinosaur, too, some kind of neon bug raising his bug fist, a pig from Toy Story, the mouse from the Simpsons, a Lego figurine with pony tail, and Ursula from the Little Mermaid. My menagerie.

I am always, constantly, breathlessly, looking for inspiration in whatever form it comes. Sometimes it’s the sad memories that make me write. Other times it’s a plastic toy. But I find comfort in the fact that writing is no dead end; not even a cul-de-sac. Writing is a road that goes on and on. And I stay on this road to indulge in the memories of what has been lost–with an eye on what there is to gain. We need to stay awake and remember. We can’t chase it away when it makes us a little uncomfortable.

Today, I remember those who were lost in 9/11 and at other times–like so many soldiers fighting in wars we don’t understand. Now and again, however, I let my menagerie escort me away from the moments of grief.

And I write.