Yesterday, the internet heaved a massive sigh of remembered
grief as we stopped to think about where we were and what we were doing when
those planes crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Yesterday was also a day of multiple sorrows
for me because I have just lost a dear friend to an unforgiving disease. And now we are supposed to move on, many of us
feeling a little more hopeful because we realize that our world has survived
that awful calamity and will do so again.
But before I’m ready to move forward, I need another day—one
in which to send love and gratitude to a group of people who—I hope—will not
read this message. They will be too busy filling sandbags, boarding up windows,
checking generators, stocking up on emergency supplies, and plotting escape
routes from the deadly storm that is headed their way. Hurricanes scare me
because they are so uncontrollable, but none frighten me more than the ones
that threaten my own memories and the landmarks that chart my writing career.
So while Florence still churns her way through the Atlantic,
here are just some of the people and places I hope she will miss:
The readers and fellow writers who have become
long-distance friends in both North and South Carolina.
The owners and staff of the vacation condo in
Myrtle Beach, where we always felt welcome and where my books dotted the shelves
of the communal living room.
The librarians and archivists at the Charleston
County Public Library and the South Carolina Historical Society who have always
been eager to check a fact or look up a reference for me.
The Charleston tour guides who consented to give
me private tours of antebellum houses in Charleston and the battlefield at
Secessionville where my great uncle died.
The owners of the Blue Bicycle Bookstore who
hosted my very first book signing and opened my eyes to the interplay between
antebellum and contemporary Charleston.
The College of Charleston faculty members who
allowed me to share in their year-long celebration of Jubilee—the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The manager of the museum shop and the on-site
historians at Middleton Place, who were always willing to stock my books that
mentioned the Middleton family.
The staff of the Penn Center on St. Helena
island, who welcomed my work on Laura Towne and the history of Frogmore—as well
as the managers of the souvenir shops in town who cleared spots on their
shelves for my “The Road to Frogmore.”
The residents of Beaufort, South Carolina--the
bookstores that stocked my books and the
librarians at the Beaufort Public Library who helped with thorny research
problems and scheduled local book talks whenever I could be in town.
The owners of the Leverett House, featured in my
“Beyond All Price,” for letting me explore their private residence for traces
of its Civil War history.
The residents of Hilton Head island, who
welcomed us as frequent visitors, invited me to give book talks at the Coastal
Discovery Museum and various women’s groups, and allowed me to poke about in
their gated communities and abandoned cemeteries for traces of that first
Yankee invasion in 1861.
May you all stay safe, warm, and dry in the