the heartache

I remember it like it was yesterday, although its been years ago now.

I had set my alarm to turn the radio on…and while the radio came in and out of my dreams, i heard something about towers and planes and terrorism. But since I wasn’t fully awake my conscience hadn’t made sense of it enough to bring me awake.

My room mate had been either in class or at breakfast because the next thing I know is she’s in our room and she’s telling me to wake up, that she has to tell me something really awful.

You see, I had just spent the last two summers in NYC working with kids in a camp about an hour outside of the city. While it was one of the hardest times in my life, working there, she knew that part of my heart lay in NYC with those kids. When she told me what had happened, i was in shock. Facebook wasn’t something that i had then, so i ran to get my address book and began to make crazy phone calls to all the people i knew in the city. at this point it had been about 20 minutes so the phone lines were busy and no one was getting through.

she told me that it was on the tv upstairs and i hurridly got dressed and went upstairs. i felt like my heart was in my mouth. i felt like i was going to throw up. I felt my blood run cold. i could feel my body involuntarily shaking.

and i went to see what couldn’t possibly be true. first one then the other towers collapsed. airplanes flying through buildings. people jumping to escape the horror only to die. the ashes everywhere, blood everywhere…people frantically trying to help…and i just sat there, curled tightly in a ball, watching it over and over. and it broke me. so deep. it became emblazoned in my mind. I could close my eyes and watch it happen over and over again.

we were in a hotel the weekend that Katrina happened, and I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the devastation and the horror. I ended up losing it on my family who had been watching it for hours…because I just couldn’t handle it anymore.

I ended up leaving the rest of my fellow students and returning to my room and calling my parents and just losing it…in gasping sobs and i began to physically shake again.

When I returned to camp again that summer, part of our orientation is a day in the city. For some reason our scavenger hunt took us down by the area in which the former WTC stood. The hole stood gaping…they were still cleaning up the twisted metal. In the midst of all the wreckage of the buildings…a crossbeam stood with a piece of metal twisting about it like a sash…and to see that cross in the midst of the devestation both shook me and gave me peace. I needed a reminder that He is here, even in the midst of all of this horror.

tears welled in my eyes, but did not spill out until we walked past a fire department on by Bowery park and saw the tribute to over 3/4 of the staff of that firehouse who had been lost in the WTC attacks. And as i read their names, and knew that they had families, loved ones, perhaps spouses and children…i felt that grip again on my throat, the shaking begin and the tears pour down. I don’t think i’ll forget it as long as I live.

hearing about the bombs during the marathon in Boston set me off again…not quite in the same way, but I began to feel my stomach church, my heart race and my body begin to shake. The problem with being blessed with a vivid imagination is that you picture it…you go through the what ifs and the horror just keeps growing. It wasn’t until later that day that it really hit me and i woke up in the middle of the night ready to throw up being overwhelmed by the horror. i’m not over it, but i’m definitely more at peace. my brother called me two times that day to check on me and make sure i was okay. i was able to write some thoughts out…but as I leave from Detroit for Omaha my thoughts will be on those people who came from all over the world and from Boston to have this experience…and are instead left with these devastating memories.

and the thing that i do need to remember is all the first responders who were running TOO the bomb blasts…to the victims, to getting things off them, to stemming the flow of blood, to getting them help, to giving blood in the hospitals, that there were so many who were selfless in the horror of this moment and tried to rescue those around them. I do not believe that humanity is at its core good…sin has taken care of that, but I do know that many of us desire to help others when tragedy strikes..the connection that continues to unite us as humanity despite of all the other things we are so adamantly against each other on.

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