Thursday, April 18, 2013

great expectations

I had a few different posts planned (I actually blogged ahead, for once), but it doesn't seem right to post any of them in light of everything that's happened this week.

On Tuesday, my co-workers and I were talking about the bombings in Boston and trying to sort through our feelings about them. My boss brought up 9/11, and it got us thinking about life and these tragedies in a post-9/11 world. At just 7 years old, I was too young to remember the first World Trade Center bombing. I do vaguely remember the 1996 bombing in Oklahoma City. I think we were on vacation. I remember seeing a few images of it on the TV in the hotel lobby, but only briefly. My brother was young - hell, so was I - and I'm sure my parents didn't want either of us seeing those images.

9/11 was a much different story, as I was in high school. I think it was a different story for most of us. No one, aside from the WWII generation, had every experienced such a large attack on American soil. For the rest of us, this idea that so many lives could be gone in one instant and at the hands of another person was, quite honestly, surreal. These were things we'd seen on movies but never once thought about happening in real life. We'd heard about Pearl Harbor from our grandparents, but we had no first-hand knowledge of the devastating toll such an event could take - both on human life and our spirit.

That September morning changed many things, for all of us. It created a divide between a pre-9/11 and a post-9/11 world. I don't just mean the security measures in place. I also mean the emotions we feel in relation to national tragedies. 9/11 was so large and distant for many of us. At least for me, it was unbelievable. Watching it felt like watching a movie or listening to a story. It didn't feel real until I stood at Ground Zero a year later and saw the destruction where the towers once stood. Even then, it was difficult to imagine what happened that day playing out in front of me.

Since then, we've experienced a number of horrific events as a country. With each tragedy, my emotions feel more raw. One seems more real than the last. I'm not quite sure why this is, but I know that it has something to do with 9/11. I don't want to say that I expect bad things to happen now. But 9/11 made me aware that they can happen and that none of us are immune to them. Maybe it's because they are on a smaller level. They are events that happen within communities like my own instead of executed on a larger scale. Maybe it's a combination of the two or maybe it's a combination of dozens of things: my age, my maturity level, the evolution of news and social media. The list goes on.

Regardless of the reasons, before 9/11, it all seemed too unlikely and too unrealistic to imagine. Now, it feels like the violence is at our back door. The media splashes the images of the victims on TV and social media, making it impossible for it not to hit close to home - not to relate to these innocent faces. As someone who studied journalism, I understand the desire to want to report on the individual stories from these events. But as a human being, it's painful to see what is likely the worst day of these people's lives "on display" for the world to see. The image of the young man being wheeled away from the explosion with his legs missing from the knees down has haunted me every night - to the point where I spent hours searching for his name and status, and for a place where I could donate to his medical funds.

But this is not just about those victims pictured on TV. It's about the names we will never know and the faces we will never see. My heart aches for all of the individuals and families that have suffered this week from events across this country and for the first responders and medical personnel who've done such a tremendous job caring for them. I can't begin to comprehend how they feel, having been there and experienced it in person. For the rest of us only feel the pain of what we see and read through others. You - those who were there - have a much greater healing journey ahead of you.

I'd like to think that, someday, we will all make sense of these things. That we will begin to piece together why these events happen and how to stop them. Yet, the realistic part of me knows that's unlikely. I don't know that I believe in God's will anymore (infertility took a toll on my faith to the point where I don't know if it will ever recover), but it reminds me of this quote by C.S. Lewis:

"For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John."

It's not a matter of whether we have free will; instead, it's the manner in which we use it. There will always be people who use it for good, and there will always be people who use it for evil. And I think that may be the only solid conclusion we'll ever be able to draw in this post-9/11 world.


Glass Case of Emotion said...

Great post, Katie. I too, have been haunted by a photo that I feel never should have been made public- it was of Krystle, lying there, deceased, with her injuries plain as day, and her eyes wide open. I didn't know it was Krystle when I first saw it, but once I realized it was- and that I saw that photo around 3 PM before her family even knew she was dead...I have had trouble sleeping. The photo you spoke of disturbed me too. Thank you for trying to piece some thoughts about this together.

Dana said...

I just found this article about the man in the wheelchair and thought you might like to read it.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Very thoughtful post. The other two events that did it for me (I'm a bit older) were the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbine. Mention any of those keywords -- now "Boston Marathon" as well -- and my body and senses go back to that time and place of the event's unfolding.

As I write, this current story is still unfolding and much of the nation is on an adrenaline rush. As with the others moments that are seared into our collective psyche, the question that can't really be answered satisfactorily is: Why?

Katie said...

I spent a lot of the morning watching and listening to the news reports. I finally had to step away because it was too much for my anxiety. I've been completely on edge. I hope that they capture this young man, and my thoughts and prayers are with all of the law enforcement officers. May God help them.

Secret Sloper said...

I couldn't sleep on Monday night because I found myself reliving my 9/11 memories. I've lived in NYC a long time, so I was here even then. I was thankfully not near the carnage and didn't lose anyone close to me, but my husband/then-boyfriend worked (and still works) near the site and I'm haunted by what he saw and heard and felt that day, and still can hardly speak about. And the subsequent weeks in the city were the most sad and awful I've ever known in my life--the literal smell of death was inescapable. The dumbfounded horror in people's eyes. The doomed smiles on the missing people posters taped to every lamp post and street sign. Flinching every time an airplane flew overhead.

It often seems so long ago, but I guess trauma rests right under the skin. I was surprised at how this event called up so much that had seemingly been processed. And I found myself feeling so sorry that so many people in Boston have to feel what I can remember feeling, and will carry that memory with them now, to pop up when they're not quite prepared for it.