An Editing Example

This is an example of an essay that was read, edited and revised numerous times before it was submitted to and accepted for publication in a daily paper on the first anniversary of 9/11. The somber content had to be balanced by a reverent tone without lapsing into melodrama.

Simple Sad September -
An Elegy

by Kathy Coogan

Simple, sad September has been forever scarred. Two thousand past Septembers perched shyly on the calendar, flanked by the blowsy heat of August and the flamboyant beauty of October, cherished only by celebrating Virgos or Libras.

No reverberating sounds emanated from interesting Septembers. Not the tipsy, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” foolishness of March, nor the sporadic firecracking of July nor the constant puh-rum-puh-rum-pums of December.

September’s modest claim to fame had been the quaint preparation for the turning of the leaves. Maple and oak still clung to their branches, subtly changing color from kelly to umber. Hillsides looked speckled, mostly emerald, but with a suggestion of ruby that attracted the eye, nothing flashy just a suggestive glimmer.

September was the Master of Ceremonies, the stodgy forerunner expected to introduce autumn and get off the stage. September notified us to gather acorns and find our mittens. It synchronized the yearning for wool over silk and boots over sandals. The tawny husks of September seedpods top-heavily spilled onto tired gardens which seemed to mutter, “I couldn’t grow another thing.”

September hung heavily for kids, signifying the daily reality of school bus trips to still-sweaty classrooms. No holiday reprieve of worthwhile duration appeared until good old November, a million days away. Moms and Dads, who happily in August, cheered the first days of school, juggled the fragile September schedules burdened already with too many reminders. September. Thirty days, the most prosaic of all the three hundred and sixty-five.

But eleven days into September, 2001, all those drowsy pre-autumn images, annoying in their repetition, were forever erased. Sister skyscrapers succumbed to sudden savagery. Flames spiraled from shattered windows that minutes before reflected the city skyline. Eerie sculptures of structure-stripped steel rose then fell on the living. Dying figures fell as well, backlit by the clear autumn sky. Soon red, white and blue were superimposed over soot and tears.

The gentle month of September had been forever changed. No longer introduced by the squeak of school bus brakes, it will now be announced with muted trumpets and hands over hearts. No more representing a gradual shift from summer to winter, a bridge from “hot as blazes” to “colder than a well-digger’s…nose”, September is now the archtype of sudden, no-turning-back calamity.

This once monotonous month has been transformed by the horror of a new time, like a late-bloomer frozen in an unexpected blizzard. Simple, sad September has been forever scarred.

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