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Reflection: By Author Julia McDermott

Reflection:  By Author Julia McDermott

Reflecting on the present, the future, and the past

Three months ago, my husband and I were preparing for big changes. Within days after putting it on the market, we received 3 bids for our three-story brick traditional Atlanta home. We accepted the best offer and soon lucked into finding just what we wanted: an updated one-level stucco home in a golf community in northeastern Florida.

The timing was right and was key in how our move evolved. We spent the summer settling in and getting acquainted with our new area. The beach is an easy five-mile drive and so is the quaint historic town. We have all we need close by and we’ve embraced a quieter, less stressful lifestyle. We’re enjoying what our new community has to offer, from the pool to the fitness center to the book club. I’ve connected with some local writers and discovered an upcoming book festival here that’s about to celebrate its 20th year.

Our move wasn’t without its challenges. I spent months paring down our possessions and identifying what to keep. A friend from college is doing the same, preparing to move from California to Arizona. She messaged that the process is excruciating. For me, it was a grueling and sometimes agonizing task. I organized photos, mementoes, and art, and made tough decisions about what to pack. We gave our children lots of our stuff and donated hundreds of books to the library and other items to charity. Scheduling a reliable mover wasn’t easy and the process wasn’t perfect.

But everything worked out—sort of. We’re still wondering where a few small items we don’t recall discarding are. We’ve made progress making our new house ours, buying a daybed for a guest room and an outdoor dining table for our lanai. Our belongings are put away and my dad’s artwork hangs on our walls.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy writing. I’m hard at work on a thriller based on my short story set in 1990s Kansas, and I’m co-authoring a work of fiction (based on a true story) set in the 1970s. My thriller’s working title has changed from What You Don’t Know to The Secret of Wichita; the tag line is “Sometimes you don’t need to know the whole truth.” My other, untitled project began in the spring, and reminds me of a cross between TV series The Wonder Years and memoirs Hillbilly Elegy and Angela’s Ashes.  For both works, after writing “THE END,” the hard work of editing and finding the right publisher await before I can announce release dates.

Finally, a reflection on the past.

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 touched me in no small part because of recent world events. My children were all in school on September 11, 2001. We’d moved into our Atlanta home the year before. The shock and horror that we felt as a nation came surging back this month as I watched the tributes to our heroes, and I reflected on what’s happened over the past 2 decades. For the first time, I came across the full transcript of Todd Beamer’s phone call made from Flight 93, the plane that crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Reading it, I was moved to tears. I am deeply in awe of him, his family, and all the brave men and women whose lives were lost or who suffered. Many of us have direct or indirect ties to them. Mark Bingham was another passenger on Flight 93 and one of those who joined Todd Beamer in saving others’ lives by what they did. Mark was a former employee of the public relations firm my sister founded and was a friend of hers. When she learned he was on that flight, she was stunned but not surprised by his actions. Our own stress and problems are nothing compared to what these American heroes faced and what they sacrificed for the sake of others and for our freedom.

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