we will not be numb…
i can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up the morning after. and the morning after that. and every morning thereafter.
but i know that i woke up — 1,300 miles away from the nightmare — on the morning after, and the one after that, and couldn’t help but try to slip into the faintest, chillingest of outlines: imagined that in that first blur of an instant, when you haven’t yet pulled yourself out from the depths of nighttime’s disorientation, you might have the barest instance of not yet being shrouded, and then, before even a blink, you would be sucked down into it, into that raw remembering: oh my god, it happened. she’s gone. he’s gone. and you would realize that the nightmare you couldn’t imagine was the one that was yours now. and you couldn’t go back. you could not, for the life of you, not ever again, go back to the moment in time where you weren’t racked, gutted beyond imagination, gasping for air.
or maybe you don’t even sleep. maybe, not even for an instant, do you slip out of consciousness into the anchor of sleep, of distance, that shore you can never again reach, the one where you aren’t skinned alive, the one where you breathe in and out without your chest hurting, the breathing’s so hard.
maybe you pray harder than you’ve ever prayed — to trade places, so you’d be the one who’s dead, and the someone you love is the one who goes on.
maybe you can never ever pray another prayer. maybe the line goes dead. and you spend the rest of your life a hollow shell.
or maybe resurrection comes in remembering. remembering the beauties, the animating stories that rise out of the ashes. maybe resurrection comes in wrapping yourself in the cloak of making a difference. making the death not be the end, but the spark of a blaze that will not be doused.
it’s all mostly impossible to imagine beyond the faintest of outlines. empathy can only carry us so far.
but i’ve found the most bizarre glimmer of hope here. it rises up out of the horrors of scenes caught on kids’ phones. i’ve watched video clips in the last day that i will never ever forget. if you’re brave, if you’re willing, here’s one, a montage from the new york times. it’s not the rawest one i’ve seen, but it’s awful beyond words.
so where’s the glimmer? the glimmer is in the documentation, it’s in this nightmare playing out in real time in front of kids who are digital natives, who instinctively pick up their phones and record, so for the first time, maybe, for a very long stretch of minutes, we — the faraway witnesses — we are drawn into the classrooms, we are watching the hands that are quaking in fear, we are hearing the whimpers, the wails. the children are witness, and thus so are we.
it’s a wholly different thing to be immersed in the minutes of blood bath in a high school classroom, to see the ragdoll-limp legs of a teen, and to see the red ring around her spread bigger and bigger. it’s impossible watching practically. it’s wholly different than watching the noiseless scenes from a helicopter looking down from above; even the frames of kids marching out of the school, hands up, stumbling in fear, those are sanitized, stripped of layers of horror, compared to the scenes that played out in real time inside the classrooms, the closets, the hallways.
and here’s the glimmer: maybe this time we won’t forget. maybe we won’t go numb. maybe this time the footage, caught on hundreds of cell phones, plus the voices of kids who are screaming that they were the ones huddled in closets, hearing the echo of assault-rifle carnage just beyond the classroom door, they were the ones sending texts home, “if i don’t make it….”
they are the ones who insist that we listen.
and those kids are screaming that this is all about guns. those kids are screaming that unless you were cowering in the coat closet, praying for your life, you have no right to tell anyone it’s not about guns. it’s all about guns, they are saying. and their videos are making that utterly, wrenchingly impossible to deny — or to ever forget.
maybe this will be the time that breaks the cycle of national amnesia. maybe this time we can all make a promise: we will not be numb. we will not forget the hell to which too many have entered.
maybe the voices of kids who prayed for their lives, maybe they won’t be quelled. maybe we’ll listen. and, lest we start to go numb, we can play back the scenes they caught on their phones, and not let those deaths be in vain.
may the memory of those 17 souls ever be a blessing. and the 26 in sandy hook. and the 49 at the pulse night club. and the 26 in the church in sutherland springs…..
Perhaps just as the photos and videos from the ground turned the tide on the Vietnam war, these students’ images may turn the tide on the NRA and the hearts of Congress.
Sent from my iPhone
we can only hope. i realize this is very fragile territory, the images are so awful they can traumatize especially the already afraid, already terrified. but those who hold the power to make changes must watch. that’s why they hold the jobs they hold.
or, this exchange of 77 texts between two sisters — one inside the school and terrified, and one holding onto the lifeline….from CNN. editors realized the most powerful way to tell this story was to tell it in the original texts…
“… making the death not be the end, but the spark of a blaze that will not be doused.” That’s all we can hold on to. Such a dark week … though it is always a dark week, a dark day, a dark hour, a dark moment somewhere on the planet. Chicago will bury a policeman tomorrow, as it has buried countless lives murdered before. Yesterday my friend kissed her 57-year-old husband goodbye for the last time. So many goodbyes …
Bless your wisdom, your big heart, your brave soul. Bless you for speaking truth and light.
oh, sweet angel. some weeks i swear our hearts are going to burst from all the heartache they hold. bless you, bless your friend, bless this city, this nation, this globe. but most of all bless the children, the ones who’ve lost ones they love. the ones who’ve witnessed what we cannot bear to watch….
and for a brilliant heart-sweeping read, dan barry of the new york times (link below). deep into the story of despair and the numbing repetition of deaths upon deaths, barry writes this:
“In this case, it is left to the young to cut through the deadening sameness. On Wednesday night, a 17-year-old boy in a dark T-shirt named David Hogg — fresh from escaping the massacre at his high school — looked into a CNN camera to address this country’s political leaders.
“‘We are children,” he said. ‘You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.'”
here is his front-page essay:
A week after Parkland, I’m still so traumatized I can scarcely read a word about it. “Fragile territory”, for me, is an understatement. I don’t know where you summoned the strength to delve into the depths of this latest national nightmare… I agree we must never, ever, forget. And keep battling the NRA.
still traumatized here, too. one thing keeps layering on top of another. but those kids are felling giants. bless them. bless you. xox