Sara Nović is the author of the novel Girl at War (Random House/ Little, Brown UK), which was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, was longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, and is currently being translated into seven languages. She studied in the MFA program at Columbia University, where she concentrated in fiction and literary translation; in 2014 her translations of the poet Izet Sarajlić earned her an ALTA Travel Fellowship and the Barnstone Translation Prize. She teaches writing at Columbia and with the literary nonprofit Words After War, and is the fiction editor for Blunderbuss Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
After The Attack
Well nothing at first, not right after. In those initial moments panic is still optional.
At the grocery store, the one across from your building on Frederick Douglass, or farther up on Ft. Washington near your boyfriend’s place, depending—a shrill, unfamiliar tone piercing the Muzak. It startles awake a sudden bond between you and the other shoppers, people with whom you’d so far avoided eye contact, mumbling a continuous apology for bumping into one another. Now there is camaraderie in the unison groping of pockets, the rifling for phones among purses and reusable totes.
Across the river on Atlantic Avenue, in the urgent care waiting room, you and the receptionist both jump. The emergency alert system, this is not only a test.
Or on your couch at home, your phone dead from the night before, you receive no alert. You won’t see the special report ticker tape because you are watching Netflix. At the moment, it doesn’t much matter. At first, there are only unconfirmed reports.
It can, as it has before, happen at any time, and in this is the bulk of its power. But city mornings offer certain opportunities—more people on the street, on subways, concentrated in office buildings. People running late, or still bleary-eyed, unseeing, unsaying. See 9/11, 8:46 AM; see Oklahoma City, 9:02.
The West Fourth Street station is bombed in the morning. In your Columbus Circle office tower, a splay of technological gadgets laid out before you on the conference table sound unanimous alarms. The first alert does not contain the word “attack”; it only says “explosion.” So you and your colleagues ignore it. Because the meeting is about to start.
Sara Novic, Group 1, 2017
Civitella is a dream, and as such, my time there flowed and bent in magical ways. Each day at my desk or in the garden stretched out languidly before me, while somehow the weeks passed in a wondrous blur– looking back on it now feels almost like an entire life in miniature compressed into those months. At Civitella I worked hard, laughed hard, and was consistently amazed–by the beauty of the landscape in which we lived, the food we ate, and the art we visited, by the talent and intelligence of my fellow residents, and the effort and care that Civitella staff exerted to feed me, teach me, and think of everything I might need so I could think only of my work. This time was an invaluable gift, a dream I’m sorry to wake from, but I can tell it is the kind that will stick with me, a warmth just below the surface, as I venture back out into the waking world.