I know why. It's almost September 11th.
Flash back with me, six years ago today. Are you there?
In exactly four days, the WTC towers will fall. In exactly SEVEN days—NEXT Friday, I will be on my way to New York with my Search & Rescue Dog Team to search through rubble and pick up pieces of people.
In the aftermath our team and our dogs went through massive depression and slow healing. We spoke to group after group of people who longed to help and yet felt helpless. They thought their efforts small—giving blood, sending food, clothing, or money. But their efforts were not small.
In times like that, every person counts.
Every flag waved, every song written, every prayer said helped us as individuals, a nation, and a world, get through an awful time. In a lot of the talks we gave, a particular question came up repeatedly. They asked, “Cassondra, why did you get into K-9 Search & Rescue?”
The answer I gave—and still give--makes some people laugh out loud, but I’m betting you’ll understand.
Seventeen years ago I was a devoted reader of category romance. And in one of those category novels all those years ago, the heroine was a Search & Rescue professional. I loved her story. Somewhere in my piles and boxes of books, I still have that novel. I can’t tell you the title or the author, because I couldn’t find it on short notice—I hadn’t planned to talk about it, or SAR dogs. But even today I could tell you the heroine's story. That’s how good it was. I searched for it tonight because I wanted, right here in the Bandit lair, to thank that writer publicly.
I’d never heard of Search & Rescue until I read that book.
Her story showed me a way I could give back to my community. I love animals, so K-9 SAR became my volunteer passion for the next fifteen years. Our team trained with the best and brightest SAR professionals. We searched for drowning victims, murder victims, lost kids and old folks with Alzheimer’s disease. We were placed on standby after the bombing in Oklahoma City, earthquakes in Peru and floods in Asia. We trained and we searched as though we had a world to save. And on 9-11-01 we did.
We were ready. I was ready. Because of that category romance I’d read so many years before about a sheriff’s deputy in the southwest—a tortured heroine who was a SAR professional.
I could list a long bibliography of books which have changed my life. In truth, I think every one I read changes me somehow.
But none so much as this one. It wasn’t the biggest plot, nor the darkest nor most complex I’ve read. But it was honest and it touched me. Because of that book I made a decision--took a direction in my life that would, years later, put me on a plane with a dog draped across my lap, headed toward an awful pile of twisted steel, concrete, and people. And because of that book, every September about this time, my heart goes back to NYC and I can't think about much else. So since it's my day to blog, you, my sisters, friends, and readers, get to hear the story.
Nowadays when I say I write romance, and certain people get little smirks on their faces, I don't much care. They don’t know the half of it. They've no idea the power that lies in stories of loss and love and happy-ever-after. But I do. I know their power first hand.
Has a book ever changed your life?
Where were you this time six years ago?
And when you needed to escape it, to believe and hope again, did you, perhaps, read?
And was it, by any chance, a romance?