• Grace A. Johnson

Never Forget (Daylight Launch Tour)


Today marks exactly twenty years since the events of 9/11.

I think that deserves a moment of silence.

Today marks the day thousands of people lost their lives and thousands more lost loved ones.

I think that deserves a moment of grief.

Today marks the day our nation fell in the form of two crumbling towers.

I think that deserves a moment of respect for all the men and women who sacrificed for this country, who built it up before and who built it up again so that, twenty years later, we don't need to fear an attack on freedom like what happened that day.

Today marks the day we - the people of America, the people of the world - entered a new era. One of promise. One of hope. One of freedom.

I think that deserves a prayer of thanks.

Today also marks the day I release my latest creation: Daylight.

I think that deserves some confetti and ice cream!

I just want to thank all of you - readers, reviewers, followers, buccaneers (that would be my street team *wink*) - for making this launch so amazing! Thank y'all for loving this story and these characters and begging for more! Thank y'all for hanging in there with me as I took six whole months to write a 5k-word book!

To celebrate, y'all get the chance to read a never-seen-before (okay, it has been seen before, but only by my few beta-readers) epilogue! (Spoilers have been edited out for the sake of the sequel...because, yes, there will be a sequel.)

 

Pictures rarely ever do anything justice, the 9/11 Memorial included. I guess I didn’t know what to expect...but the sight before me is overwhelming and relieving all at once. The footprints of the Twin Towers have been cleared and around them are clean sidewalks, greenery, American flags, and so many people. Most of them stand alone, a few gathered with a couple others—their remaining family, I suppose—heads bowed and shoulders slumped.

Silence reigns for several long moments after I exit my cab and step into the crowd. I linger at the fringes, my legs too weak to carry me any farther. Well, that, and I really don’t want to get any closer. I know I’ll have to, when I’m called up to read, but until then, I want to process everything.

After things started going back to, well, some semblance of normalcy, I pushed it all to the back of my mind. It was easier that way. Others...others could talk about it. Others could smile softly and remember the good things. Others could mourn and move on.

But every time I thought back to that day in September, I felt it all over again. The tightening in my chest. The wild beat of my heart. The sting of the smoke. The guilt.

And maybe I wasn’t the only one. Maybe these people here, these that have lost mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, siblings and children, close their eyes and see the towers falling again. Hear the screams of their loved ones as they’re burned alive or crushed by rubble. Relive the last hug, the last phone call, the last kiss, the last family dinner.

Or the last harsh word, the last beating, the last night spent crying alone.

There’s something about losing someone you truly love, someone who loved you in return. You have the memories and the assurance that their time was well-spent. More, many have the confidence that they’ll seen them again in Heaven.

But when you lose the one you should’ve loved, the one who never loved you the way you wanted—you have nothing but regret. Nothing but the too-late prayer that God would save their soul.

That’s the kind of burden on my heart right now. That’s what I’ve bottled up and hidden away all these years.

It’s time I finally let it go.

The screech of a microphone shatters the quiet, causing the crowd to look up at the memorial, where the names we would read are engraved. A woman dressed entirely in black tugs down her mask (which, of course, is black too) and leans into the mic, her voice heavy with a Jersey accent as she addresses us.

I struggle to listen to her welcome and thanks for coming and description of all that’s going on today. Either the wind keeps catching her words and blowing them away, or my mind keeps catching a different train of thought.

It’s probably me. It usually is.

Then she calls out the first name, and my attention snags on a short, grey-haired woman who slowly makes her way up to the memorial.

She’s the first of many. Of hundreds, most likely.

Before we make it through the as, tears are streaming down my face and I notice several others dabbing at their eyes. The next few minutes, or couple hours, or days that pass—all right, I doubt it’s days, but you know that feeling when time seems to elude you and years feel like seconds and vice versa? Yeah, that’s how it feels as I watch others walk up and read the names of their lost loved ones.

Then we make it to the hs.

A few names down, the lady calls out for Sylvie Harpe.

That would be me.

I’ll be honest, my feet don’t want to believe it. They want me to stay right here until she moves on to another name. They somehow glue themselves to the pavement and practically dare me to stride forward.

It’s a dare I have to take, even if my nerves are inclined to stay with my feet.

I force myself up to the memorial, focusing on only the names—not the people around me or the lady beside me or the footprints that loom ahead—and searching until I find the name of my father.

Robert Harpe.

I whisper it under my breath at first, trace the letters with my fingertips. Then I clear my throat, glance over my shoulder at the crowd, and say the name as loudly as I can while still hiding the tremble in my voice.

And it’s over.

I step away, disappear back into the crowd. The lady calls another name. A man cradling a baby shuffles past me to reach the memorial.

Life…life goes on.

I stay for a few minutes longer, until my phone tells me I have only forty-five minutes to get back to the hotel and ready to meet up with everyone at Vinny’s. Then I walk away, cross the street, call for a cab, and ride away.

Just like that, it’s over.

He’s gone.

He’s been gone. For twenty years.

I’ve never let him go, though. I’ve always been praying for a do-over, for a second chance. I’ve always been regretting the time we misspent, the harsh words we spoke.

I bow my head, closing my eyes as his name echoes in my ears. Lord, it’s high time I let him go. Let...let all of it go. Guilt over August. Regret for Pops. Pain over all that happened that day.

I can’t do it alone, though. Obviously. I mean, I’m still here, holding onto it twenty years later.

I need Your help.

Help me let it go. Help me go on. Help me commit Pops to you. Help me see the blessings in the curses, Lord, and the beauty in the rubble. I know it’s there—Your Word says it is.

So…I’ve taking the first step toward healing, God. I came back. I read the name.

What’s next?

I lift my head, leaving God with an opening instead of an amen, and lean back in the seat. Nothing but the muffled sound of traffic and my cab driver’s humming penetrate my quiet.

Not until we park in front of Vinny’s. I get out of the cab, pay the driver and wave goodbye, then turn to the restaurant…and I hear God whisper.

Smile.

 

Today, probably even as you read this post, there are family members gathering around the 9/11 memorial in the footprint of the twin towers to read the names of the loved ones they lost. This is only a fictional account of what that looks like, but the struggle is very real.

If you would like to ensure that the next generation keeps what happened on this day twenty years ago in their hearts, then please donate to the Never Forget Fund here, to support the efforts of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum!

Well, this marks the official end of the tour, y'all! Technically, all the dates have been out of whack...the promo price ended on the 10th for B&N, Apple, and Kobo, but it doesn't end until the 13th on Amazon...and even though this is the official final post of the launch tour, I will have a wrap-up post tomorrow announcing the winner of the giveaway, so stay tuned for that!

I hope you've enjoyed traveling back twenty years with me and my blogger friends! This launch has been...it's been an amazing gift, for which I am exceedingly grateful! I hope y'all enjoyed the tour and all the fun posts and goodies! Thank you again for all your love and support!!!


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Bookishly yours,

Grace

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