Cover Story: 2002 Literary Issue: Ordinary Heroes

"We could be heroes/just for one day. -- David Bowie

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Steven Verriest

Sipping coffee and running late for work (as usual), my morning routine came to a standstill when it happened. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

I didn't cry right away. I didn't scream. I didn't get nauseous. None of that happened until the second plane hit, the one that told the world this was no accident. And then I barely remember the times I wasn't crying — virtually nonstop every second I was at home.

Growing up, I remember listening in awe to my family tell stories from the day John F. Kennedy died. Part of my interest was believing that I would have no similar experience. Now I have too many stories of my own to share.

It was like a thirst I couldn't quite quench. I simply didn't want to learn more; I needed to. And it wasn't the facts, per se, that drove me. It was the people directly involved — the passengers on the plane, the office workers at the WTC, the rescuers, the volunteers. It wasn't enough for me to mourn the masses. I needed to mourn the individuals as well.

A year later, and I no longer wish to mourn. Remember? Certainly. Celebrate lives? Definitely.

But, in truth, there's no way to succinctly pay homage to all aspects of Sept. 11, a fact I dreaded when I realized that this year's Literary Issue coincided with the one-year anniversary of the attacks. So in short, I didn't try to.

In the days and months following Sept. 11, I truly learned what heroes are. And it goes far beyond a badge or a red cape blowing in the wind. Sometimes heroes are where you least expect it, regular Joes (and Josephines) stepping out of their mundane lives to lend a hand (and, in turn, some inspiration) to others. The articles within this year's Literary Issue feature these so-called "Ordinary Heroes" — not just from Sept. 11, but from all walks of life.

We lead off with "A Little Knowledge," winner of the annual Mercantile Library Fiction Competition. Then Katie Gilligan journeys to The Heaven of Mercury, where author Brad Watson drew inspiration from his grandmother. Jessica Turner clocks A Year of Full Moons with lesbian author Madelyn Arnold. Kathy Y. Wilson gets some lines down on P&G chemical engineer and poet Emmanuel Yamoah. Rebecca Lomax takes notes on the Veterans History Project, before she branches out with a review of Erin McGraw's The Baby Tree. Richard Hunt wades through the deluge of Sept. 11 literary releases with a special edition of The Fine Print. And seven of CityBeat's finest, including myself, remember one year back for some touching, and occasionally surprising, heroic memories that have forever touched us.

It's a time to remember.

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