You cannot read this story without remembering - where you were, who you were with, the weather, the sounds, the thoughts racing through your mind, the panic, the saddness, and the loss of a presumed safety.
"But I knew the truth, and that's why I was so sad. Every moment before this one depends on this one. Everything in the history of the world can be proven wrong in one moment."
I kept hoping, wishing, the ending I knew would not be the ending to this book. And yet, though the story's ending was about a boy and his family, the ending was still the same - heartache, saddness, healing, and hope.
As I read, I knew that if I were to look through the list of names from that day, I would find Safran Foer's Thomas Schell. I just knew it. His story would be there; father to Oskar; jeweler; husband; son. However, he is merely a character, yet he represents what so many lost.
"He told me he was on the street, that he'd gotten out of the building. He said he was walking home."
"But he wasn't."
"He made it up so you wouldn't worry."
"But he knew you knew."
For me, this terrible day changed my world view. The idea of presumed safety my generation held since the Berlin Wall fell in '89 was gone. The sense of peace we had always shared had been shattered. Sure, there were conflicts in the Middle East, Somalia, and Bosnia, but that kind of thing couldn't happen here. It just couldn't. And yet, it did.
It is nice to be reminded, even through fiction.