Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tragedy and Resilience

I can't imagine it.  One minute the sun is shining and the next minute you're under a mattress in your bathtub as debris from your town blows overhead.  The noise is outrageous and the only thing louder is your beating heart.  You're not in control. You are not sure what your next move should be. You are doing the only thing you can do - you are staying still and hoping.

Just as you say that you can't imagine me, holding Christina's hand one sunny morning, laughing and then screaming in an instant, living through a tornado is beyond my ability to fathom.  

I lived through a hurricane on Long Island when I was 8 or 9.  Arnie's house flooded because the storm drain was clogged and a tree or two lost some limbs, but mostly it just rained a lot, or so I remember.  I wasn't scared.  I was thrilled.  School had closed at noon and Sam had come home with me to play cards because his parents were no where to be found.  

Life was simpler before "emergency release cards" were necessary. 

I've never had the world turn on me.  Though there were several large earthquakes while we lived in California, Marin was never the epicenter.  The walls shook and sonic booms rocked my eardrums but it never frightened me.  The world was a safe place, the earth was my home, I was secure.

Last week's Sports Illustrated featured Tuscaloosa, Alabama on its cover and devoted the feature article to the nexus of 'Bama sports and Mother Nature's fury.  Dead teenagers fill the pages as do 350 pound football players carrying chain saws to help clear front yards and driveways.   It was the antithesis of a safe and secure home, but the town is moving forward.

That's it in a nutshell.  Tragedy and resilience.  Senseless death and volunteers doing whatever it is that they do best, be it staunching a wound or hauling heavy equipment.  Things and people are gone, and yet the sun comes up the next morning.  Or, the rain keeps falling.  Those left behind wonder why and how and soon, if they and we are lucky, that energy turns outward and wonderful things happen - concerts for civility and community picnics and tender memorials and new playground equipment and whiteboards.  

It's not enough.  Not nearly enough.  But nothing will ever be enough.  How can it be?  What the survivors want cannot be granted.  Life cannot go back to the way it was before.  All I want is Christina-Taylor back in my courtyard, watering my containers and collecting her $2/day.  Too bad.  That is not going to happen.

But I can take those feelings and promote the CTG Foundation.  I can be Grandmother in Residence at an elementary school, giving and getting hugs, reading and being read to, putting bandages of love on my aches and sorrows.  I can take advantage of my wider audience and try to do some good.  It's not what I want; it's what is available.

I'm afraid of skinny white boys now.  I wonder if those in T-Town or Joplin will be afraid of the wind, or a certain smell in the air.  I hope that they are able to sleep soundly soon, because I know that right now sleep is the furthest thing from possible.  How can they relax? The world is a scary place.  

Don't try to tell us it's not.  We know better.


  1. It is heartbreaking to see the pictures from Joplin. So much destruction and so many lives lost. :(

    I hadn't seen the pictures until late yesterday and hubby told me that it looked like a bomb had gone off.

    My heart and prayers go out to them.

    Sending you hugs today too.

    Megan xxx

  2. I can see how PTSS can come roaring back when something like this happens - no matter how far away from it you are. And thanks for the hug, I take all I can get!

  3. I love this. A reminder that we never "get over it," "move on," "move forward." We just do the best we can do, and know that tragic events change us. And more than money, or things, what we want is to be safe, and sure.

  4. Yes, just when you feel you have moved two steps forward, something like this can push you 5 steps back. But you will be moving forward again soon. Take some time, a few deep breaths, and gather up your strength to put your foot forward again. We are all right there with you.
    And yes, the world is a horribly frightening place with so much that is wonderful mixed right in.

  5. I am so sorry for the fear. I'm sad to admit that I've never lived in a world that felt safe, but a lifetime in a scary world doesn't help one get used to it or lessen any given moment's fear or sadness one tiny, tiny bit.

    I wish you still lived in your can-do world both for your sake and because I got a heck of a vicarious lift out of visiting it. While it didn't look or feel like any world I'd ever known, I've never lived in the one the tornado victims wake up to each morning. Nor have I lived in yours. I can only send love.

  6. Delayed comment as I just got back home from 2 wonderful weeks of friends and celebrations but I had to put my 2 cents in.

    The devastation in Tuscaloosa and Bham was, at times, overwhelming, but instead of hopelessness and fear I saw tremendous amounts of courage and strength. The tornadoes reminded me of how incredible the human spirit is and how selfless people can be. Walking around, the damage is seared in my mind, but for every person needing help, 10 people were there volunteering to help them. I know their path to recovery will be long and filled with many bumps in the road, but there are many times I forget how amazing we all can be.

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