Repost: Thoughts on Tragedy from a D.C. Resident

Eek.  Yes, I haven’t written on here in a while and yes, this is another repost back to back.  Forgive me?  I promise to get my act together because – you know – that time of year is coming up again. :)  In the meantime, in honor of 9/11 tomorrow, I feel like it is only appropriate to repost this article from a few years ago.  My emotions on the subject haven’t changed since then.

**

“Thoughts on Tragedy from a D.C. Resident” Originally posted September 16, 2013

On a Tuesday in the 10th grade, I sat twiddling my pencil in home room.  I had Mr. H., the geology teacher, who was notoriously known for taking roll call for the first two minutes and then leaving us to our own devices.  Twiddling a pencil seemed appropriate for an early September day.

“Do you think _____ will ask me to homecoming?” the chatty blond-haired girl, with the large chest, asked her friend at the table in front of me.

“If he’s smart,”  her twig-bodied friend blurted out in between cracks of “illegal” bubble gum pops.

I eavesdropped and flipped through the pages of my trigonometry book with my left hand as I glanced over my schedule for the semester.  I made a mental note to check in with the guidance counselor later that afternoon; AP European History needed to be nixed.

I let out a big sigh of relief, as the bell finally rang, and I exited out into the hallway.  I found my ‘boyfriend’ standing at the intersection of the two halls.  That’s weird, I thought; he isn’t usually on the same floor at this time.  T. sauntered over, in my direction, and whispered in my ear, “something’s happened.”

“What do you mean something’s happened?” I quickly responded.

“Mrs. L. told us in home room.  Something’s happened in NY.  She turned the TV on.  Didn’t you see it?” he asked.

“No; I didn’t see it!  Mr H. never turns the TV on!” my sentence trailed off as I peered back towards Mr. H’s closed classroom door.  The windows on either side allowed me to see him move from setting the phone down to reaching for the remote control.  An image of smoke billowing from the twin towers flickered on the screen.

flag2

**

Experiencing 9/11 in Ohio was different from larger metropolitan areas.  I remember sitting on the tennis court during practice later that day, and listening to the eerie silence of a plane-less sky.  I remember eating dinner with my family in front of the TV and knowing that this was a moment in history, but not truly understanding what that meant.  I remember watching news coverage alone in my room later that evening; tears streaming down my face as I watched the firefighters clear the wreckage of Ground Zero.

I remember feeling so sad and united to other Americans in the days following those acts of terrorism, but also feeling so removed.  It was later reported that Flight 93 briefly flew over Cleveland before crashing down in Pennsylvania.  This was the closest my home city came to experiencing real fear in the wake of 9/11.  In a matter of weeks, things were back to almost normal.

eiffel

**

It wasn’t until I moved to the nation’s capital several years later that I truly understood what it was like to live with a constant fear of terrorism.  I feel it as I walk among my fellow D.C.-ers.  I know it when I hold my breath a little longer as the metro train stops at the Pentagon station.  I hear it when people speak of never flying on September 11th.

On 9/11, in the district, we sip our coffees a little longer in the morning.  We hug our loved ones a little tighter before we leave the house.  We do these things because the fear here is real.

In lieu of what happened in this city, less than 24 hours ago, I can’t help but think how this adds another fear to our list; the simple act of going to work.  I am deeply pained for the families of the victims, of course. There are not enough words or emotions to explain how saddened I am for their loss and what they must be going through now.  But, I’m also upset for their coworkers, the people working near-by, those of us who panicked as we scrolled through our mental log of friends who work for the Navy.  Were they at the Navy Yard location?  And then, that looming thought of it being the Navy today, but tomorrow – is it the Pentagon, the Senate, my office building in Tyson’s Corner, VA?

When I was younger, I learned that America is the land of the free and home of the brave.  I learned that people died fighting so that our country’s patrons can experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But, as I say my prayers before work in the morning, as I anticipate feelings of visiting the Navy Yard metro stop in the future, as I squeeze my loved ones a little tighter tonight…

I wonder when the freedom from fear will become real.

 

 

“Uncomfortable”

This week, I’m so excited to be linking up with The Chronicles of Chaos’ Write or Die Wednesday.  As I finished the poem I wrote in response to the prompt “What makes you uncomfortable?” I realized that I couldn’t wait to post it.  Because who has patience?  Apparently not I. I hope that you like it, and, also please go check out Mia’s blog!!

photo cred

“Uncomfortable”

Sometimes
I think about Pluto and all the vast space between me and that tiny ball of light once deemed a planet.
I wonder how exactly it must have felt to initially discover something new.
To realize that a small freckle of energy in the sky is not a comet, or an asteroid, or a star in a different galaxy
or an imagination, or magic, or the light from a stranger’s flashlight miles and miles and miles out
but something moving around our sun
so cold and far away
and how it must feel for the status of being a planet to be taken, permanently removed
even though it’s years and years and years later
and Clyde Tombaugh is now gone.

Sometimes
I wonder how many nutter butters it would take to line up from here to Pluto
and if I stepped very lightly on that peanut-shaped cookie trail
could I walk myself to the end of the galaxy and back?
Or would one misstep, the wobbling of my heart
plummet me in to a black hole, the endless darkness of the universe.
And without gravity, would I float for mere seconds
before gray clouds scarred my vision and my mind turned off forever?

Sometimes
when the world feels really big
I go in my dungeon, the vast darkness of my mind
and I pull the levers of my brain
to make the world smaller
which always, never occasionally, takes me to the front porch of an Ohio home
when my age existed in single digits, and I knew all my neighbors’ names.
There was one neighbor who had the last name of a type of bird
one that was consistently hard to remember, even though I always did
and one night when I stared at their house on the corner of the street,
where cars would pass by from the main road,
there was one car that careened into the front window of their home
and when the ambulances arrived, the red light blurred my thoughts
and I never found out if the driver was alive.

Sometimes
I think about the first time you held me in your arms
and how I trembled from the pureness of it all.
The way we laid naked and young
baring ourselves against the sticky cloth of a basement couch
when I thought about if life will ever feel the same way again
or will I be forever bound to the memory of this moment
when death feels like high school graduation,
and when you asked me, and I said yes,
and I wasn’t innocent anymore?

Sometimes
I wonder how I will one day leave this earth
and if it will be a car wreck, or a terminal illness, or a peaceful escape near my 98th birthday, surrounded by a loving family, when my last gasp of breath will be taken from me
and in those last sixty seconds before light from a world beyond takes over
will scenes of Pluto, and flashing ambulances, and teenage sex flutter against the back of my eyelids
like pounding rain against the window sill
on the day when I first encountered all these uncomfortable thoughts
about whether we’re all quickly living or slowly dying?
And even though I knew absolutely none of the answers to the questions I was asking
I walked outside to my car parked on the street
and started driving with the windows down
and the rain still poured
and my favorite music was blaring
and the wind in my hair felt like your breath
and I knew exactly how it feels to really be alive.