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Why I wrote Bridge to Terabithia

Katherine Paterson

We tell stories to make sense of the world and of our lives. Remember how hungry we were for stories when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked? One story that has comforted our family in the loss of one of our own was the word from a fellow worker that Pete (our son John's brother-in-law and close friend) had last been seen in a small group of young men who had positioned themselves at the rear of those coming down the stairwell, making sure that no one who was weak or slow would be left behind. There were many heroic and compassionate stories that we heard on the radio or TV or that we read in the newspaper that brought us a measure of healing in that horrendous time.

I wrote Bridge to Terabithia in a time of distress for my own family more than 25 years ago. Our son David's best friend, a bright, lively imaginative eight-year-old girl, was struck and killed by lightning. David couldn't understand why such a horrible thing should happen. None of us could understand. So because I could not bring back Lisa from the dead — indeed, I could not even comfort my heartbroken child — I began to write a story to try to make sense of a tragedy that truly did not make sense. A story, I thought, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And when you come to the end somehow the beginning and the middle become clearer to you, not in some rational way that you can explain to someone else, but in your heart and your emotions. Art — whether it be in graphic images or music or even the words of a story — has a power to touch us below the level of argument or logic. In times of fear and grief we humans crave this comfort for ourselves and seek to share it with one another.