Maureen Cooke

A timely yet ultimately distressing anthology “New Mexico Remembers 9/11,” edited by Patricia Walkow, is a collection of essays, poems and artwork by New Mexicans, dealing with the events and aftermath of 9/11 — a tragedy that, however briefly, united and galvanized the United States against a common enemy: terrorism.

Those old enough to remember 9/11 are unlikely to ever forget where they were that day and how they felt as they watched the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center and then the second plane hit the South Tower. Few will forget the heroism of those aboard United Flight 93 or the eeriness of a sky devoid of the sound and sight of aircraft.

“New Mexico Remembers 9/11” brings those details back to life.

The contributors vary in age, gender, socioeconomic background and ethnicity — which provide a fairly thorough understanding of how Americans responded to 9/11.

Several pieces, including “A Mother’s Heart” and “Even the Children Watched,” address the challenge and anguish of parents trying to keep children emotionally and physically safe. Other pieces, such as “At Least I Could Do Something About It,” detail the need to take action, to stand up, be prepared to fight if need be.

There are over 20 contributors to the anthology, and I am reluctant to elevate one over the other, as each piece is worth reading. Each memory is worth preserving.

That said, I want to mention two authors, one because of the beauty of her prose and the other because of his courageous honesty.

Before reviewing “New Mexico Remembers 9/11,” I had never heard of Sylvia Ramos Cruz. After reading her prose/poem/essay “Where To?” I will definitely seek out her work.

“Where To?” is a lyrical blend of Spanish, English, news reports, prose and poetry. A retired surgeon, Cruz’s use of language and essay form — combining quotes from Osama bin Laden, President George W. Bush and Malala with poetry — made “Where To?” a joy to read.

On a different note, Colin Patrick Ennen’s “A Guilty Memory” was difficult to read, not because of grammatical or stylistic errors, but because of Ennen’s brutal honesty. He details being in The Corps of Cadets, a military academy yet part of Texas A&M University.

He describes other students’ reactions, and his inability to understand why anyone would stay glued to the television, watching the news of the attacks, or why classes would be suspended.

He describes being genuinely puzzled that these actions could in any way help those who’d been killed. Ennen doesn’t justify or apologize for his reaction; he simply details it.

Not until the end of the essay does the reader understand Ennen’s reaction. “A Guilty Memory” needs to be read to be fully appreciated.

“New Mexico Remembers 9/11” is timely in that the U.S. in March 2020 was attacked by a relentless enemy: COVID-19, which has so far killed more than 250,000 Americans and shows no sign of letting up. Yet, unlike after 9/11, Americans have not united to fight a common enemy; that is beyond distressing.

(Maureen Cooke has been writing, editing and teaching others to write for the past 30 years. Currently, she’s working on a mystery novel and a memoir. She’s a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group.)