Writing fiction in a post-9/11 city makes for some difficult choices.
There’s no doubt that my beloved city is still scarred. When other places offer a brief news item on the day, we air the entire reading of the names of the dead, about four hours’ worth. We have a museum that walks people through what happened and how we coped. And are coping. There are thousands of people still receiving medical help (physical and mental) from the aftereffects.
But in writing terms, it’s a problem everyone faces. Do we mention a specific event? On the plus side, it gives our story a sense of time and place. On the minus side, it dates it. And for some people, mention of a real tragedy inside a fantasy novel might take them out of the escape they wanted.
A fellow writer once asked if any mention of it should be made in her novel. Her book had been started long before that tragic event and a group of us told her not to change a thing. Fortunately, the area she placed her characters in and the events that she created did not require it. Including it would have been a distraction. So she left it alone.
My own soon-to-be-released novel takes place on Long Island. I chose not to bring in any mention of 9/11. And when my main character needed to go into the city, she went to a different area.
I don’t know if future books will have my characters referring to anything or pointing to a landmark or if they’ll just continue walking to sit in Battery Park with no mention of the recovered globe that is there. Or whether I’ll make sure there’s no reason for them to go to the area at all. It’s a hard call, but it’s a call required of every writer who uses a real place, not just because a horrific tragedy occurred in their backyard.