Fiction vs. Reality

Trying To Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning
Spencer Finch - Watercolor on Paper
Created 2014
"No day shall erase you from the memory of time." Virgil's Aeneid
Fiction vs. Reality
I love to read fiction. Even more, I love to write fiction--even if it's taking real places and events and filling them with seemingly real people.
Being in the fiction zone is a fun place to hang out. Without leaving my writing studio, I can stroll through fields of poppies or bustle along crowded streets. I can have coffee with my characters and contemplate what they may do next. Sometimes they make me laugh, and at times, I am brought to tears. When the last sentence is written, the characters' hopes may be realized. Or, their shattered dreams resonate with a deafening sound. That's the possibility with fiction--an amazing phenomenon, really--to take something not real, and give it so much heart, that it beats life.
But fiction fades--even the best of all time. The quoted words become jumbled. The scenes distort and fade from short-term memory to a distant long-term cousin. The heartbeat slows, eventually releasing the story into a safe and faraway place. And that is okay. That's where all fiction goes one day.
Reality, however, doesn't die--even if it's a reality saturated with death. I experienced this yesterday while visiting the newly opened 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. I've wept in one other museum in my life--Dachau concentration camp in Germany. At this amazingly heartfelt, superbly designed, and painfully comprehensive memorial to one of America's greatest tragedies, my fictional writer's worlds humbly and respectfully stepped aside to affirm what is real.
The most impactful and convincing fiction authors of all time could never evoke the raw emotions and reality of that horrific day, detailed in the photographs, video clips, and artifacts of real people--mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends...real people who got up, started their day, and never returned home. That was reality on that day in Lower Manhattan almost thirteen years ago. Even though it was a beautiful, blue-sky sunny day, there was nothing fictitious about it.
Sure, fiction helps the pain, and even the reality of being human. It has its place and I still want to spend time journeying to its destinations. However, experiencing the sober reality of the 9/11 Museum was not a pinch to assure me of my morality. It was a direct punch to the gut to remind me and, hopefully all Americans and those around the world, of the fragility of life and how blessed we are to live another day.

As we approach September 11th, take a moment to remember where you were and who you were with on that day back in 2001. And, if you aren't old enough to remember the events of the day, give thanks that there are plenty of us who do and should never forget. Finally, I hope we all will remember to take a longer moment to pray for our country and its future.