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The Frightened Muse (2001-2006)


"The deaths in New York were horrible and irreparable, but they did not make us special. They did not make us more important than any other country in any other war. This is what Primo Levi understood about his war, and what we need to understand about ours."

The week after I left New York to live and write in Paris for a year, the World Trade Center was destroyed and one of my French cousins killed his wife and himself, leaving behind their four children.

Great material for a novel, people suggested.

Café and croissant in the mornings gave way to CNN as I, like so many, sat glued to those endless images of the flaming, collapsing towers the whole world now knows so well. Emails poured in from terrified friends in the States, and phone calls from bewildered relatives in Paris. The French I met regarded me with horror and pity when I told them I’m from New York, as if I had just blurted out that I was dying of cancer.

"Put it all in a story," people kept saying.

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This essay was posted on FeatureWell.com and updated in 2006.

Additional essays by Helen Benedict can be found at featurewell.com When you reach the site, just type "Helen Benedict" in the Advanced Search window. All essays are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission.