When Grief Turns 21

My best friend’s death on 9/11 is now of legal age. Time to party.

Zibby Owens
3 min readSep 11, 2022

September 11, 2022

Dear Stacey,

You’ve been gone for exactly 21 years today, the age we should’ve been while drinking the beers in the picture above.

We’d become fast friends of three months in this candid photo, freshmen in college, living across the hall from each other and on our way to years of adventures.

I’m sharing this scene today with people who care about me — even though it was from the days before your keratin treatments (see below for your “after” moment!) — because today I feel like celebrating you, not mourning.

Stace, can you even believe how my life has evolved recently?! I wrote a book and it all centered around you! Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature wouldn’t exist without you. Because my life wouldn’t be what it is today had I not loved and lost you. Same for all of it — the podcast, the publishing company. It was all because of you.

I wish more than anything that you were here for it. To see how I’m glowing at this unexpected turn of events for me after staying home with the kids for 11 years. That I could text you and say, “Omg, I saw Oprah speak last night at the Toronto Film Festival!” Or all the exciting things.

And what would YOU be up to?? Who would your kids be? What industry would you have taken by storm? Whose friend would you have become?

Well, Stace, this is the first 9/11 that I’ve woken up on feeling happy, not gutted. Of course I’ll always be devastated by the scope of loss from that day for so many. But today I’m feeling your party energy, your mischievous spirit, and your sparkle.

I’m carrying that around along with my endless love and gratitude for you.

Who knows? Maybe you’re here with me today in some way, urging me on. I’ll be on the lookout for ladybugs, your sign.

I love you, Stace. I miss you today and every day since that horrific Fall morning. But I’m remembering all the FUN we had together. And smiling.

Love always,


NOTE: I originally posted this in shorter form on Instagram. About five minutes after I posted it, my husband turned on the TV in our hotel room and what popped on? “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug.” Chills.



Zibby Owens

Host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. Author, Blank and Bookends. Co-founder Zibby Books publishing house and Zibby's Bookshop in Santa Monica. Mom of 4.