Record Your Reality

by Kimberly Moynahan Gerson

The events of September 11, 2001 have shattered each of us. America has never, in modern times, felt such direct impact of the atrocities of war. We've all been glued to our television screens, newspapers, and the Internet watching the events unfold. We've seen the videos, heard the eyewitnesses, followed the breaking news, and now the horror of this terrible event is within us.

600 miles from New York, I lie in bed at night and the horrific scenes run through my mind. Those I haven't actually seen on video, I've filled in with my imagination. I can see those passengers on those airlines in their last minutes of life. I can feel the terror of office-workers in desperate flight. I cry with the fireman who says tearfully, "I can't find anyone from my squad. No one. They should have been back by now. " Yes, the horror is in me.

So, what should we do, we writers, to purge that horror? To bring it, from where it lies, someplace between our aching hearts and churning stomachs, out to the light of day where we can examine it? We must write of course. We must write in order to get our own personal agony out of our bodies and onto the page. We must write in order to face what we fear.

Today, take out your journal and put it all down. Not for the Pulitzer. Not for your memoirs or upcoming book of essays. Not for anyone else, but for you. Write, not about facts. Not about times and dates and numbers and statistics. Those things are all in the newspaper clippings you've probably saved anyway. Don't write the outer story; write the inner story of this tragedy. What's happening inside you? Did your hands begin to shake when you heard the news? Did a name or an age on a flight manifest shock you? Which fireman's face, which tearful survivor, which graphic description haunts you? When did it become real to you? Whose story finally brought the tears? Why do you still cry two days later? Are you afraid? Why? Are you angry? At whom? Go deeper. Ask more questions of yourself. Keep writing. Don't edit. Don't stop. Don't worry. The page can, and will, absorb it all.

And, if not for you, then write for them. Write for the survivors. Write for the people who come after you. Write for those who never knew or might forget the events of September 11, 2001. Lock your pain, your fear, and your reality into the fibers of the page. Remember how the holocaust came alive, not through our dry 9th grade textbooks, but through the eyes of Anne Frank. Her poignant words cutting through our self-absorbed adolescent minds bringing us right into her terrified life. Recall how the Civil War became more than just an historical event through the diaries of plantation wives and letters from men in the trenches-real people with real feelings. It's not the newspaper articles and statistical data that have kept history living, it's the diaries, the personal stories, and the reflections of regular people who felt a need to record their tale.

So, today, record your tale. Let the built-up energy inside you drive your feelings from your inner core, through your veins and to every nerve ending in your body. Then open up your mind and body and let it flow, unimpeded, out through the end of your pen. You are a writer. Record your reality.

Kimberly Gerson is a freelance writer with 15 years experience in business, marketing, and technical writing. She now divides her time between writing creative non-fiction in the field of natural sciences and perfecting the art of the personal essay. Formerly from the Lake Champlain region of New York, she now resides in Ontario. She can be reached by email at KMGerson(AT)