On Friday morning, I was arguing with my computer, trying to get it to change its tab settings; wrestling with email; griping about a UPS shipment gone astray; and wondering how I could ever “disappear” enough clutter to make my house presentable for Thanksgiving.
By Friday night, all I cared about was knowing that people I loved were safe.
As I try to write this week’s Look On The Lighter Side, we are all trying to wrap our heads around what, exactly, happened in the horrendous terror attacks in Paris.
If past history is any guide, it will be even harder to figure out how to get on with the rest of our lives.
Of course, I flashed right back to 9/11.
Much was different, but one thing was the same: the immediate and urgent need for a quick inventory — “R U OK?” to everyone close.
If you’re fortunate enough to come out of that, unscathed, then “Is there anyone we know who might be in this horrible thing?”
The texts fly back and forth.
“Is anyone we know in Paris?” my children asked me. I asked my mother the same thing, by phone. It’s all that matters — a census-taking of the heart.
When the towers came down, I was blessed that my husband was off that morning, and my children were right where I could hug them. Because that’s what I needed to do: hug them, while I waited for my heartbeat to slow back down to something approaching normal. Now, I have done my job, and the children have left the nest. Are they safe? Never mind are they happy — are they safe? That becomes all that matters, because I can’t be happy unless they are safe. It turns a parent into something resembling a lunatic, or so I am told — but at least we can talk about that, over the turkey — as long as they’re safe.
I did not lose any immediate family or friends in 9/11; we were lucky. But just living here, to some extent it happened to us all. And more than anything else — more than rage, more than fear — I remember just feeling so sad. So much misery! Why would anyone go out of their way to leave so many motherless, fatherless children? Why take so many people from family and friends? Why turn your God-given talents to making so many other children of God so sad?
There is nothing I can write as eloquent as the Facebook posting of a 22-year-old young woman, Isobel Bowdery, who seems to have survived the carnage in the Bataclan concert hall by lying down, as if dead, among those who already were:
“But most of this is to the 80 people who were murdered inside that venue, who weren’t as lucky, who didn’t get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through. I am so sorry. There’s nothing that will fix the pain. I feel privileged to be there for their last breaths. And truly believing that I would join them, I promise that their last thoughts were not on the animals who caused all this. It was thinking of the people they loved.
“As I lay down in the blood of strangers and waiting for my bullet to end my mere 22 years, I envisioned every face that I have ever loved and whispered ‘I love you.’ Over and over again. Reflecting on the highlights of my life. Wishing that those I love knew just how much, wishing that they knew that no matter what happened to me, to keep believing in the good in people. To not let those men win. Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. To live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfill. RIP angels. You will never be forgotten.”
May there be love, and may it conquer. This is my Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Forever wish. Amen.