Persistence of Memory is fiction. It is the story of a Detroit woman and her strange, three decades long relationship with a certain pair of skyscrapers in New York City. It begins with an unnerving glimpse of rising towers on an old black and white TV, through tourist visits and business trips, and ends with her witness of their deaths.

The story begins and ends on Joanie Bailey's 40th birthday in New York City in April of 2002. While looking at a memorial to the terrorist attack in the city, she begins a survey of her life to that point.

Though Joanie is a lifelong Motor City resident, she begins to realize that her destiny is intertwined in part with some of New York's most famous buildings -- the World Trade Center. She doesn't like them at first -- in fact, as a child their sheer size terrify her -- but over the years resigns herself to her connection to those 16 acres in downtown Manhattan.

By the time Joanie, now a business consultant, must make a routine trip to the Big Apple in early September 2001, she has taken a liking to the towers. There is something familiar to their contours, their monolithic bulk and unavoidable presence that has endeared them to her. Enough so that she takes their end and those who occupied them very hard.

Joanie survives the devastation of the day known as "9/11" and returns to Detroit, shaky and wounded mentally and physically. She is afraid to remember or discuss what she has endured. Every time she tries to recollect her escape, she is paralyzed by terror.

As a barrier against her 11 September memories, Joanie instead reviews her life, including how she developed a severe fear of heights and her previous trips to the World Trade Center and the outcomes thereof. She also recounts nightmares that plague her after the terrorist attack.

Joanie's story will not leave her alone -- it is a "persistence of memory." But Joanie must eventually tell her tale in full. She is strongly encouraged by her family to do so. Only then can she begin to truly heal.


Why write fiction about 11 September 2001? The opposite also could be bluntly asked -- why not? wtc sunrise

The answer could be that fiction trivializes or gives a tacky overtone to the deaths and suffering of the real civilians and public safety persons who endured the destruction of the World Trade Center complex. Another response could be that we have not reached enough historical perspective or emotional distance from the 9/11 attacks to create stories that might remind one of James Cameron's epic about a doomed ocean liner and a pair of fictional lovers from opposing social classes.

I had not started out to write a 9/11 fiction; it sort of happened along the way because it was an intense event to experience, even on a 26-inch television screen. I had originally wanted to do a book about a woman facing her 40th birthday. After the attacks, the story's direction changed dramatically.

I wrote 9/11 fiction for a simple purpose -- to get the historic day out of my own system. I had to deal somehow with the intensity of the attacks and the endless replay of the burning towers and Pentagon, as well as the collapses and Ground Zero. The whole thing made me cry sometimes. It was time to move on, though, as 2001 passed into history. I decided to exorcise my own memories by writing a novel about someone who experienced the terror first hand.

Through research into primary and historic resources from the time period of the attacks, I began to assemble the framework of the story. Dozens of survivor accounts were posted on the World Wide Web, as well as published in print periodicals. A number of books and Web sites exclusively devoted to the WTC also appeared in the wake of the attacks. I also had personally visited the towers as a tourist and dug into these memories to a lesser extent, as well.

I have strived in writing this online novel to avoid sensationalism or gore, especially in the 9/11 sequences. There were horrible sights for those who were fleeing to view, and some of these are included. But descriptions never go into extreme depth on the worst parts.

Joanie's story is not my story. I was NOT in New York on 11 September 2001, nor am I a WTC survivor! I don't have a cousin born on the same day as me, nor am I a business consultant.

I was in my office in suburban Detroit on 9/11 listening to the news on my radio because we didn't have a TV. I wanted to try write in another person's voice, however, so as best as I could I tried to get into the mind of a 9/11 survivor. This is nothing new -- Arthur Golden, a white male author, assumed the voice of an elderly female Japanese woman in his best-selling Memoirs of a Geisha. Research was the key here, and that is what I did.

Graphics included with the novel are often actual photos of the WTC or related to the text.

Please don't be offended by this story. It's just one more contribution in the wake of and a reaction to the United States' "Second Day of Infamy," one that at least four generations of citizens experienced as the new century opened.

{To PART 1 of the Novel}

Persistence of Memory -- A Novel, Copyright © 2002 by Victoria Mielke