*bit of a long post*
Love is the Higher Law | Available for Purchase: Amazon.com « Barnes & Noble « Book Depository
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 25, 2009
Pages: 176 pages, hardcover
Received Copy: Paperback copy, also signed by author
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .
The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.
Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.
David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.
Just last weekend marked the 15th year anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the United States in: New York City, Washington, DC, and Shanksville, PA. I was invited to meet with a friend on the 9/11 date to spend two days in New York City and in doing so I decided to finally read David’s novel. I bought Love is the Higher Law few years ago when he did an author visit at a local bookstore. It was right near the anniversary and he explained some of the sights he witnessed and also notes this at the end of the book. I thought it was most appropriate reading on the day we remember all of the lives lost, innocent and the brave ones who died saving others.
I read the book on the train, well what I could–there were some loud talkers who ended up breaking my concentration from time to time and I also went in and out of periods where I was overwhelmed with emotion and kept tearing up. I was in high school so I remember more vividly than others who might’ve been younger at the time and also living in New Jersey which wasn’t as far away from NYC as opposed to where I live now. While reading Love is the Higher Law I could relate on various levels of the characters in their feelings, even though I wasn’t a New Yorker or someone extremely close to the situation, that day left a mark on everybody who was able to witness it.
Claire, Jasper, and Peter are coming from different viewpoints on this tragic day–Claire at school Uptown, worried about her younger brother, and getting word from their mother. Jasper has slept through the entire morning in Brooklyn only to be awoken by a phone call from his parents in South Korea to hear of the news, and Peter who skipped school to hang out at a record store and see the effects from Midtown. All present at a party a few nights before, they’re all thrown into the mix Claire and Jasper meeting just by chance, developing a friendship with him and eventually Peter who is a fellow senior such as herself. Peter and Jasper who were supposed to have their first date September 11th, but the day postpones things giving a bad vibe on their meeting. Looking at the devastation and destruction these characters start looking at their lives in a new perspective and realizing they don’t exactly understand what’s happened but know they are forever changed. Thinking deeply, caring more, and an array of emotions helps shape their lives now.
It’s a short read and it’s really interesting from a YA point of view–a time when teens already have so many emotions, to put this new level upon them having the characters examine their lives. I might read it again next year on the date, haven’t decided but I’m glad I have it on my shelf because I haven’t seen a lot of books on the subject like David notes in his final acknowledgements in the back of the book. And again, as someone who was a bit younger than the main characters but still able to witness the impact of that day is really fascinating to read.
The picture above does no justice on how truly amazing this sight was to see in person. The overwhelming emotion of patriotism, love, sadness, anger, and sorrow you have looking at the new skyline and the lights that shine brightly for not only all of the victims but the loss of the buildings which represented a part of the city as well. The sun set beautifully that night and my friend and I watched the sky turn from bright reds, to cotton candy pinks and blues, to a dusty gray, to finally the darkest black to show the twin lights.
I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this on social media at some point, but I’m sharing it again:
For the life of me I can’t remember my first period schedule but, it was our first year using a type of blocking scheduling at our high school. Day Whichever had XXX class first period (driving me crazy I can’t remember), then Driver’s Ed with Mrs. Collura who was BFFs with my English teacher Mrs. Hults–their classrooms were next door to each others, and third period was French II with Madame Cardell…ugh! She was such a useless teacher. I’m getting off topic but I had to set the scene. We started early at my high school, morning bell was at 735am, and classes started 750ish, so I was already a quarter to halfway done with second period.
Mrs. Hults called on our phone system to Mrs. Collura to turn on the news. Most classrooms did have TVs, albeit not modern but would work well enough, and when she did, I believe both towers had been struck by the planes at that point. Either it was just the one, or the second happened in moments that I wasn’t paying attention because I kept thinking ‘Wow, this is just like a movie!’ Not looking at the severity of it nor the sheer magnitude of what happened. Mrs. Collura told us we were probably witnessing history, little did she know how right she would be. Those moments watching the towers burn are forever engrained into my brain. At that point, class ends and it seemed determined by staff that we really shouldn’t be watching the television and try to get back to our classes but within the switch from Driver’s Ed to French, word around school was that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane as well. We watched a little of the coverage, I honestly don’t remember the towers falling or if I watched it live. I think at that point we weren’t allowed to know much else as students but I started going into panic mode.
Before French ended I gathered up two quarters so I could call my mom. With the knowledge I have of Philadelphia now that I live so close and actually working in Center City, I understand the layout and the surrounding towns. I didn’t realize back then that my sister’s attendance at St. Joseph’s University isn’t near the heart of Philadelphia if damage was done but at that time, you honestly didn’t know which piece of news you would hear next. We could all agree that this day, destroying those buildings had a huge impact on markets and big businesses who set up shop in those towers. My dad worked in the financial industry at the time and would seldom have to take the PATH train in right underneath the towers. I never really knew whether or not he would have to go to New York or not until after the fact and he came home after his day. Needless to say I ran to the payphone at school and was able to get a hold of my mom who told me my father wasn’t in NYC today, and my sister should be fine, no reports in Philly so she’s relatively safe.
The weirdest part of that day was hearing some surrounding schools were dismissing kids early. As millennials do, we were sorely disappointed our school wasn’t one of them. The rest of the school day was a blur, everyone and their mother tried to teach us when all we could do is discuss the morning and if there were other revelations we hadn’t heard about. Some kids were called to report to the office over the loud speaker having us all look at each other and morbidly wonder what had happened. A lot of classmates had parents who worked in NY/NJ right where everything happened and you could only imagine.
My neighborhood was next to the high school and I remember walking home, turning on the television seeing every station was reporting the coverage–Nickelodeon, MTV, local news stations, etc. all broadcasting. I came home exhausted and fell asleep listening to the news; I just couldn’t take it. The anxiety for everyone, the anxiety for the people I knew hoping they were okay, the country, the tears I shed when I came home. What’s pretty crazy is my mom would always tape her soap operas on the VCR when she worked. Guiding Light on CBS at 10am, Days of Our Lives on at 1pm on NBC, she recorded a bunch of the coverage that I still have the VHS tape recording history live on TV.
The next year, a family friend and native New Yorker took my sister and I on a day trip to the city. We walked by Ground Zero and the enormous holes in the ground just left you speechless. The construction going on to rebuild, the Missing people’s pictures up and American flags everywhere was a sight to see. Not only that but it was quiet–just so very quiet for the city that never sleeps.
That was my day, my recollection of September 11th, 2001. Parts of it mirror what Claire, Jasper, and Peter experienced that day. Obviously on a more emotional level as I didn’t live as close as they did, but the perspective is there for sure. To learn more information on the events & to donate, check out the 9/11 Memorial website http://www.911memorial.org