Yesterday morning, I woke up. Made coffee. Set out my teacher-bag. Filled up my gym-bag with my workout clothing and running shoes. Checked for my keys, wallet, cell phone.
I was ready for the day. I was ready for teaching, for grading journals. For guiding young minds and all that jazz.
And then I turned on the news. And watched as the screen was broken by a red, horizontal stripe and the words Breaking News. The reporters’ voices were not the regular local news anchors. The pictures on the screen weren’t weather maps or pictures of someone’s pet or even the dreaded information about a homicide that might have occurred overnight.
No. Matt Lauer (I guess) was briefing me about the explosions in Belgium. Smoke rose from the airport. Police vans grouped around the ends of the street where, I guess, a subway was turned into the vestibule of Hell.
I am so tired of terrorism. I am saddened when I look on Facebook and see more anti-Muslim rants. I am grieved when the news shows the ISIS spokesman showing pictures of people in Syria celebrating.
I grew up on an Army base in Germany and remember bomb threats that emptied my elementary school and caused my mother to do high-steps in a pine tree copse while she searched for my body. I remember the bombing at the Oktoberfest. I remember hearing about bomb threats at the airports on the days I was supposed to fly. I remember. I remember. I remember.
I am so fortunate that my experiences with terrorism, though, are in the showcase of “I remember,” not I experienced. I am so blessed that my children, though growing up in a post-911 world still don’t have any real memories of terrorism. Yes, they know about the attacks in Paris. Yes, they know about the attacks in Belgium. I don’t hide what happens around the world. Someday, my children will be part of the world and they need to know the legacy they are inheriting.
But, today, when I came to my “insights” page for this blog, I observed that someone in Pakistan had read something I had posted. Maybe just the “about me” page. Maybe it was an accidental click.
But my heart lifted, even if for a moment. I know that this is no real reason to celebrate. To lift a chalice in honor of myself and say “I have made a difference.”
But the humanism of this moment stood out in sharp contrast to the black and white, grainy images that flashed across the screens on the televisions at the gym today. Statements that the bomb-makers are likely dead do nothing to encourage me. Not when people can quickly search the internet and find the ingredients for more death and destruction.
I don’t know the impact I have made or can make. And this is not me trying to send a not-so-subtle-hint that people need to flood my inbox with goodwill and heart-warming messages. This is me crafting a statement that is to transition into this next point.
I know that people have made differences in my life. And, right now, I am sitting on my porch swing on the front porch, watching as the white blossoms of the pear tree across the street from me slowly turn rosy as the sun sets. Right now, I am wearing my pajamas because I have worked out and showered and decided that my blue-striped pajamas are preferable to any pair of jeans or shorts. I am barefooted and wearing my UNICEF t-shirt and am feeling hopeful.
I sadly tell my students that the post-911 world is the legacy my generation is leaving to them. But in that world built on the collapse of the World Trade Centers. In that world crafted from the debris and detritus that spumed out of the Pentagon. In that world dug out of the crevice created by Flight 93, I still find that I can bequeath a legacy of hope.
I grieve for the families and friends of the victims of yesterday’s bombings. I grieve for the people who are frantically searching for the loved ones who are not accounted for. This reminds me of the stories I heard about the hours after the Virginia Tech massacre, that as the first responders entered the bleeding mausoleum to begin the process of collecting the fallen and processing the gaping crimes committed, cell phones continued to shriek as parents and friends and loved ones tried to make contact with the deceased. But no ringtone can ever pierce the quiet blanket of death.
I know that I live in a rosy-colored world in which I grab for any form of happiness that may or may not exist. I know that events like the Belgian attacks are perilous to people such as myself. But my rosy-colored glasses are perched on the end of my nose. And I can look over the rims and see, quite clearly, that which unfolds before me.
I see the violence.
I see that hatred.
I see the walls being built.
And they scare me.
But I refuse to capitulate to that fear. I refuse to allow myself to be forced into a corner and put up my trembling fists and hide my head and pretend that everything is still just hunky-dory.
And I refuse to allow anger and animosity to taint who I am. I know who I am. I don’t have to search very far to find the mosaic of my identity and clean off the dust and say,
This is me.
So. Yes. I have my bits and pieces of hope. Whether it is in the image of a map in which the United States is red because that is where I have the most readers and Pakistan is bright yellow because only one person in that country clicked on gracelesscurran’s site.
Or the fact that my life is inhabited by wonderful people who continue to show the real meanings of love and compassion and kindness and goodness.
Or that I just know that…
I don’t know.
I just know that I can do something to make things better.
I will cling to those tendrils. Will climb up that frayed rope. And will celebrate the silliest victory or the greatest triumph and never, ever, ever give up on hope.