Monday, September 12, 2011

Not remembering

Some things ought to be remembered.  But I don't want to be the one to do the remembering.  I've been avoiding images, articles, analyses, reflections on that date 10 years ago.

I was a graduate student in California.  I had been married just over two years, and Tim and I lived in a small, 600 square foot apartment.  On the west coast, we didn't even wake up until the tragedy had happened.  It didn't unfold for us.  It had already happened.  We woke up, tried to get online to read the news, but found our favorite news site phenomenally slow.  We showered, dressed.  The online site showed a picture and a headline, and that was all.  We thought it was a hoax, and tried to reload.

I didn't sleep well that night.

Do you remember how we all wondered what to do with ourselves for many days afterwards?  When would it no longer be disrespectful of the human victims to carry on our normal lives?  We used to read daily comics on a website, Tim and I, and for a few weeks nothing changed -- the writers had all submitted their daily comic strips several weeks in advance.  One by one over several weeks, each of the writers of the daily comic strips replaced their usual silliness with a tribute, now days late.  

The skies were empty of airplanes for several days, except military aircraft.  Once, within a few days, a huge military helicopter on unknown business flew near our apartment, and I worried.

I only had nine classmates in my class in graduate school, and only four were born in the US, and only three to US parents.  The other woman, Yu, was from mainland China, and had recently been investigating spirituality and religion.  She would go running around a campus track in the evenings, and I remember going with her one day, not long afterwords, in the light of a sunset.  The moon was high and full over us as we ran, around and around in circles, and we talked about religion and God and why.  She told me that in China, it was the festival of the moon that night.  Her loved ones were gathered far away from her to celebrate the full moon of autumn, and eat moon cakes.  It was my birthday.

When we were living in Texas, several years later, a beloved woman in our ward suffered a head injury in a bike accident, miles away.  We women flocked to the relief society president and asked if there was anything we could do.  The answer was no, everything had been taken care of.  Don't worry.  And I realized in that moment that when tragedy strikes, people want to be allowed a meaningful way of showing their love.  Please don't tell me there is nothing I can do.  If I do nothing, how will I let you know how much it hurts me, too?  Your loss?  Give me a toilet brush and some cleanser and let me scrub out the bathroom, please.  I know you don't need it, but I do.

There was nothing I could do, in California, except hold Tim a little tighter and run around that track with Yu.  And I still feel helpless.  I don't want to think about it, being helpless.  Hold my family a little closer, harass the neighbors with a toilet brush and cleanser.  Hope it doesn't hurt too much, to die, when my turn comes.

I don't want to think about it.

1 comment:

Letterpress said...

I, too, avoided posting about this (you did it--good for you) and did avoid all coverage of the events on that day. I just couldn't watch the film clips over and over one more time.

We got a call from Dave's parents, telling us to turn on the television. I watched the news, switching between channels for the rest of the day. I was numb as well.

I think the idea that such a catastophe can really only be dealt with on a smaller, more personal scale resonates with me. Thanks for this post.