Wednesday, April 10, 2013
A good friend teaches at a London drama school and recently decided that during the next term, his students would being doing a project on the events of 9/11. However, as he’s been preparing for the summer term for a few months now, he’s had time to look for plays and scripts regarding the matter, only to find that there are very few to be produced. Last weekend we talked about why this would be. With so many dramatists based in New York, was the subject too painful? Was it too recent?
Finally we hit on the fact that the events of that day were too difficult to separate from the events which followed, namely America’s controversial ignition of the Iraqi War. “It comes off as self pitying really, the idea that when America is attacked, they have they right to go to war when tragedies such as this happen everywhere around the world.”
As an artist the idea that the story of a tragedy cannot be separated from the morally questionable acts that followed it interests me. After all, if we are to link past events together and never take them out of context, then we are historians and not artists. Part of a storyteller’s job is figuring out where a story begins and ends as well as the dramatic structure in between. There have to be stories we can tell about that horrible day which stand alone, which are not affected by mistakes and bad judgements that followed. For many people, their tragedies did not include the after effects of that day. They did not lose loved ones in the war or have the energy to protest the political actions taking place.
I rather think there is another reason to explain why so few stories have been told exploring the events of 9/11. It is a storyteller’s job to find meaning in events, to tell a story from start to finish where, ideally, every detail is significant. We look at the events of that day, most of us remembering when we saw the unthinkable happen live while crowded around a little screen, feeling unfathomable fear and loss while rubbing shoulders with those we normally never took a second look at, and we are still at a loss to find any sense of explanation or meaning. Like so many other tragedies, how do we find reason, logic, bigger pictures and universal truths in this event? Most of us would probably say that such isn’t possible. maybe it isn’t yet.
Maybe someday, with time, reflection and healing, the stories will begin to fall into place.
Politics can hold us back from telling stories but there are some situations out there where it’s not the powers that be which tape our mouths shut, its our own lack of understanding. Most of us probably believe that events like 9/11 will never have meaning and it will never make sense. And the entire event probably won’t ever be explicable. But healing comes from looking at tiny pieces of the event and ordering it in the best way we know how. And that effort, like healing, takes time coming with the ebb and flow of waves.
Probably in about twenty to thirty years we will start to see a wash of narratives about that day in September which occurred more than a decade ago. It takes a long time for wounds to heal so that we can touch those places again. This is how long such healing needs to take. But like so many horrible events, stories will come out of the rubble which try to make sense of what happened in their own feeble way, and maybe then we will find some sliver of meaning.