Right after 9/11 I was gripped like everyone else and felt I had to do something. So I came up with the idea of getting responses on the tragedy from other authors. I contacted authors I knew and authors I didn't know and came up with quite a list. Everyone from Scott Turow to Rick Bragg to Dave Barry. I collected the essays and started about trying to find a publisher. We found several who were interested and my agent prepared to set up the deal.
But in the chaotic days after September 11 everyone was struggling with how to get a handle on this tragedy. Some publishers said it was too soon. Others said they were being swamped with 9/11 projects. Some thought 9/11 would fall from the public consciousness. One publisher proposed to put it in a shoe box with other mementos. We were never quite sure how that would work.
Finally an editor wanted to take the project on. The day he was to make the deal he lost his job. The essays went into a folder and began to gather dust. I took them out today and read through some of them. What jumps out at you is the feeling of anything could happen. These are authors who make a living out of writing books and they wrote like men and women under fire. The frantic quality of the writing is something you would expect out of someone who has lived through the Holocaust.
But that is the way it was then. You just didn't know what was next. One world vanished and another world began. Even our polarized country can be attributed to the politics of fear that began after 9/11. I suppose that is what these essays are all about. Fear. And it is a pity they never saw the light of day because they are as historical as any letters from World War II. I guess all wars are about fear. America knows what that's all about now.
William Hazelgrove's latest novel is Rocket Man.