Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Fragile We Are

This morning as I was scrambling through the morning get-the-kids-out-of-the-house routine, I heard a story on the radio about how the horrific Boston bombings, like other previous terror events, remind people about the fragility of life.

There I was, filling lunch bags, making tea, spreading spreads on toast, and rushing, rushing as usual, as I peppered my girls with the regular old questions: Did you brush your teeth? What about your hair? Go to the bathroom? Pack your backpack? Bring your book? Hurry, hurry, I said. We're running late.

And in the midst of that most mundane chaos, the radio reminded me that a father in Boston lost his eight-year-old son on Monday, while his wife and daughter's lives hang in the balance. Almost two hundred people, though they survived the blast with their lives, will forever after live with different bodies than they had before that moment.

On Monday, maybe an hour or two before the bomb exploded in Boston, I sat at lunch explaining to a new friend what it was like to be in downtown Manhattan on 9/11, because she asked. It doesn't come up often. For many of us, that experience of watching our city burn, of breathing the smoke and seeing the photos of the missing collect on lampposts and bus stops, is like a barely-healed wound. We try not to pick at the scab.

I told her that I decided that day in 2001, when I was 26 years old and had barely started a new career in publishing after a gear switch out of academia, that I wanted to have a baby; that I didn't want to wait until I was older. Because how could I be sure that I would be around in some unknown future? That's what 9/11 felt like to me: a cliff that the world almost fell over. The end of time.

The year that would follow held yet more difficulty for my family. That winter, Josh's sister Nina was in a traumatic car accident in which she lost her left arm.

Returning on the train to NYC from visiting Nina in the hospital in Boston, I sat next to a psychologist researcher doing work on trauma. (Or maybe I dreamed that I did, because the coincidence seems too strong to be true. But sometimes, this is exactly how life works.) He told me that trauma equals loss and that the loss can take many shapes: a person, a limb, or even a state of innocence. Healing from trauma involves acknowledging and mourning the loss. And it takes time.

I wish those amputee victims in Boston could talk to Nina now, and see all the ways in which she has reclaimed her self; how she has fought to be the powerful and capable person that she is, even without the arm that she was born with.

Some people argued after 9/11, as they always will, that it is futile to bring children into a violent world. But there's a difference between being aware of fragility and giving up hope.

I became pregnant with my first child in the spring of 2002, within months of both 9/11 and Nina's accident. That baby was, for me and Josh, a source of healing.

Yes, I am reminded this week, yet again, that life is fragile. That although it may feel that way sometimes, getting my kids ready for school--like most of our daily stresses--is way less than dire. But let's not let the horror in Boston take away our hope. Sending thoughts of healing and strength straight up 95 North...

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