A student, Joe, sauntered into my classroom, smacked his books down on his desk, wheeled around and headed back toward the door. Before he crossed the door frame, he looked at me as an afterthought, mentioning, “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center when I left my house.” Taking my cue from his demeanor, I casually replied, “Oh, a small plane? Pilot error?”
“Dunno,” was the boy’s articulate farewell.
With his heads-up as a cue, I turned on the news to find out more on what I thought was a small tragedy. Horribly, the television flashed on at the same time the second jet hit the second tower. And if you are of an age to be aware, that nightmare attack triggered a shower of consequences all Americans continue to debate. The Iraqi invasion, the Afghan invasion, prisoner abuse, civilian murders, airport security measures, the death of Bin Laden, and now the arguments over Syrian intervention.
Another kind of tragedy, private tragedy, is a central theme in my book, River of January.” Silently, out of the sight of others, consequences tentacled out into the future from a series of tragedies beginning around 1900. The losses of a lone, little girl shaped the lives of others until, well, now.
That little girl, who readers meet as an adult in the book, suffered the tragedy of her mother’s early death, her father, no more than a stranger living in Kentucky, and later, her husband’s sudden death in Queens, New York in 1925. From her tragedies, the now, grown woman believed that those she loved, she lost. And that core belief held dire consequences for her two children, particularly the youngest daughter.
This sad life, heavy with suffering from crushing, dramatic losses, bore strange fruit in the woman’s inability allow her children their own lives. Her youngest daughter was not permitted any self-agency in her profession or any personal life. As a mother, the lost little girl demanded to be the center of her children’s world, and she was the gate-keeper of their lives. She couldn’t comprehend sharing her family with outsiders, especially the young man who came to marry the youngest.
A tragedy under the radar.