As high school students in 2020, none of you remember the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Every year, during this week, I remember where I was the moment I learned about the terrorist attack in New York City. I remember arriving at school with my mom (who was a teacher there) and having another teacher ask if we'd seen the news this morning. We hadn't. I remember spending the next hour before school started sitting in the office watching the news then spending the rest of the day wishing my teacher would tell us something, anything about what was going on. I remember the weeks following, where every car on the street had a little American flag sticking up from the window as a way of saying "We're in this together." I remember having an assembly on the one year anniversary, in order to honor the first responders and medical workers who were so important on that day. Then, one day, it all became a memory. Something that happened, but no longer affects our day to day life.
But this isn't true for everyone. There are some people who were immediately affected by loss or injury and the attack remains a huge part of their life. Hope and Other Punchlines is a story about the babies of 2001. Hope and her friends and family were each affected by the attack in their own unique ways. This is their story.
The following is a book review which I wrote in September 2019:
On September 11, 2001 four airplanes were hijacked on their way to the United States of America. One landed in a field in Pennsylvania, one hit the Pentagon in Washington DC, and two crashed into the Twin Towers [World Trade Center] in New York City. Almost 3000 people lost their lives as a result of this attack on America.
Hope and Other Punchlines is a fictional story about those who didn't.
Based on a real city in New Jersey, Hope and Other Punchlines takes place in the city which suffered the most deaths in the terrorist attack, outside of New York itself. Abbi, who's middle name is Hope, was photographed in a crown and holding a balloon as her caregiver, holding Abbi, ran away from the falling towers behind them. It was Abbi's first birthday. The image went viral and "Baby Hope" became a symbol for the entire country of hope and joy in times of sorrow.
This is the reality that Abbi has grown up with. She is famous and people are constantly doting on her in public places, thanking her for being Baby Hope and telling her that her picture is handing in their house. Can you imagine how strange that must feel? Abbi is sick of it.
Then, the summer before senior year, Abbi starts to feel the symptoms of 9/11 Syndrome, a very real effect of having been near the towers when they fell. Abbi, convinced she is dying wants to get away and just be a normal girl for one summer before dealing with the illness. So, she gets a job as a camp counselor outside of town. It is here that Abbi meets Noah, a boy who has his own connection to the Baby Hope photo and refuses to let Abbi ignore her past. Noah takes her on a wild goose chase, leading to Abbi meeting all of the remaining people in her viral photo. For some it's joyful; for others its painful. Through it all Abbi remains their rock, as she's done her whole life.
This book brought back all of the emotions I remember feeling on the day of the attack. It reminded me to think about all the people who didn't stop being affected by the attack a few weeks or months later. Living in California and having no family on the east coast, its easy to become disconnected from disasters that happen there. It is important to remain aware and connected to the other people in our country, and to support each other in times of need. This book is an excellent reminder for us.
Plus, I've always wondered how it would feel to go viral. Now I know!
Hello, Canyon Cowboys! My name is Miss Gilpin and I am SO excited to be your new teacher librarian! I can't wait to get to know you this year. See you around campus!