A Different Kind of Journaling

I had not journaled for many years before I experienced September 11, 2001. I was in New York City at the World Trade Center, standing between Building 7 and the North Tower when the first plane flew over my head and sliced into it. Trapped in Manhattan for most of that week, the entire event was overwhelming.

No, I did not start to journal then either. In fact, as soon as I got home, I wanted to forget everything. I wanted life to be what it had been before. I subconsciously pushed down any memories that tried to surface, creating “black holes” in my mind. I promised myself that one day I would allow myself to relive the entire sequence of events, slowly and deliberately, in order to try to understand and accept them.

Two years went by and still that day had not come.

Perhaps the coincidence of being in New York for several days in August 2003 during a major blackout is what triggered a renewed urge to make the time to process those days. It took a concerted effort to reprogram the automatic reflex to stop submerging the thoughts that were trying to come through.  Memories reached through to me. At first, they were hesitant, expecting to be beaten down again. They would sneak up at the least convenient times. They started as little flashes, but before I could invite them to stay, they would slide back fearfully into the dark.

Writing had always been good therapy for me. I decided to start jotting down whatever words or images came into my mind, whether they made sense or not.  Eventually, I wound up with pages of these random clues. Every few weeks, I would try to make a little quiet time to add new ones and stir them gently. Images emerged. Sentences began to form.  Over the next several months, I had accumulated a document of haphazard memories from that week, many only a sentence or two.  It might be months before I would review the entire document again.

Another year or so went by as the document full of disorganized snippets grew. The more time I made for them, the more related details would begin to surface. They would connect themselves to earlier snippets, creating paragraphs, like ice crystals growing on a pane of cold glass.

More new memories would surface. Soon, I was seeing vignettes. Not everything was momentous. Some were just impressions. Some were visual snapshots that I worked into words. I didn’t filter anything; I just wrote down whatever came out of my head.

Another year or so went by. At some point, I realized I had a big jumble of blurbs. My obsessive-compulsive tendencies forced me to put them into chronological sequence, which in turn yielded more minutiae. The gaps between the blurbs began to close and the full sequence of events began to emerge. 

And then one day, there it was! A journal of the entire week. Eventually, this journal became the foundation of a book. In its shadow: A 9/11 Memoir is my first book, released in November 2019.

It’s never too late to start journaling. It will help you learn what is truly important to you - and it can heal your soul. 

 

 

Jodi Graber Pratt

Author bio:

After 45+ years in financial services and fraud management, Jodi has begun to put more time into creative writing and watercolor painting. Please visit the in its shadow: A 9/11 Memoir webpage to sign-up for her newsletter, and visit (and “Like”!) her Facebook/initsshadow page. Jodi would love to hear from other “9/11” survivors.

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