If your friend was killed in the Lockerbie bombing of 1988, just one semester after you had been on that same London internship program and had returned home safely, what would you tell her about the past 20 years? In her powerful letter “Twenty Years Later,” Judy Sutton Taylor fills her friend in.
“I’m thinking about you again today. But of course I’m thinking about you; it’s December 21, 2008. It’s the twentieth anniversary of the day you died. Twenty years, too, since you were twenty years old. I’m back at Syracuse University this weekend, with Michele and some other friends, to remember you and to commemorate the day that changed the rest of our lives. Even after all these years, though, I don’t just think of you during ceremonies and anniversaries. I think of you all the time. The last time I saw you, during our junior year, we all slept at my parents’ place in NYC after we rang in New Year’s 1988 with Michele and a bunch of other friends. I was about to leave for a semester in London, for the same program you were going to participate in the following September. We talked a little that night about how psyched we both were, but I didn’t think much about our conversation until later. None of us knew then, of course, that this particular New Year’s would be your last. Let me tell you, a lot happens between twenty and forty. Of course I thought about you through engagements and weddings and the births of babies. I thought of you when Michele and I shared phone calls about job promotions and buying houses and doing grownup stuff. I thought about you when we dealt with miscarriages, separations, divorces, and the deaths of other friends too soon. During my darker moments, I thought about how it might just be better to live twenty great years and end it there, instead of dealing with all the drama and ugliness of adulthood…”
JUDY SUTTON TAYLOR lives with her family in Chicago, where she’s the kids editor at Time Out Chicago. She also writes about food and fitness. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Cooking Light, Self, Good Housekeeping, and Chicago magazine. Her semester abroad, way back when, gave her a permanent itch to travel, and she’s been lucky enough to mix work with pleasure by contributing to guidebooks for Fodor’s, Mobil, Gault Millau, and Little Black Book. Her essay “Twenty Years Later” is for Michele, who always joked that her parents could only afford one “l” and whom she talks with often…and always on December 21.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you to Judy for sharing your personal story with us and putting up with my many nosy questions about a tragic topic. Judy will be reading her letter at our Chicago event, check out the events page for all the details!
Read the rest of Judy’s letter, and 35 others, in P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends, now available at a bookstore near you (or on Amazon!)