March 19, 2003 began as a night of innocence and insouciance. I was in New York City in a penthouse apartment attending a small farewell party for my dear friend Janice who was leaving Long Island and moving her family to rural Indiana. I was soon to follow in June with our family's move to Atlanta. We knew we'd miss New York desperately, Janice and I. We knew our kids faced all kinds of challenges as they entered new schools and we pulled up stakes on our Long Island lives. But on this night, spring was tantalizingly in the air and Central Park twinkled in the misty distance. We were a happy group of close girlfriends on the terrace toasting Janice with champagne and going away gifts and wonderful wishes. It almost felt like being in Paris.
By the time we were in the car headed back to Long Island, the lovely bubble had burst with the first news of air strikes in Baghdad. The radio was crackling with bomb bursts and airplane sounds. America was at war. How could we possibly know the terrible changes that lay ahead for all of us five years down the road?
I can only list them, the elements of my novel's plot, one by incredible one:
The subsequent death, just a month later, of our hostess husband. Janice's family's move to Indiana . . .which turned into a subsequent move to Chicago. The romantic entanglement of another friend which led to the breakup of two more families. My illness in June, just at the time of our Atlanta move. The death of so many fine young men and women in a war that should never have been. The desecration of American values at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The end of my marriage. The steady decline of America's standing in the world. The dissembling of trust. The disappointment of bewildered children. The Bush Cheney years.
That night, poised between peace and war, then and now, just feels pivotal. I'm sorry to bring y'all down with so much melancholy, but it's raining buckets outside and I feel like crying, and this is what I have to say.