Note: these are my really random thoughts about Monday. I have been reluctant to post anything about it because I am leery of standing on the shoulders of the injured to make my “voice” heard. But I can’t suppress the thoughts, woes and observations so read or not, but know that my heart is heavy and in the right place.
When I was in elementary school, our homeroom procedures went like this: we would put all our stuff in the cloakroom, sit at our desks, say the Our Father, then the Pledge of Allegiance and begin our lesson. My school, Holy Angels Catholic Elementary, was situated in Buffalo, NY’s “West Side.” When we moved in, in the
1800s 1970s, the West Side was beginning a cultural transition. The houses, parks, libraries and churches were wonderful. Fantastic residential architecture sat nearest Lake Erie, which is where I lived. As you moved away from the water, you would see more standard row-house-ish types of narrow-plotted, deep-into-the-rear yet ample homes. Our block, which was closest to the water, boasted some fantastic homes designed by some of their era’s premiere builders. Buffalo, for some time, was a crown jewel of the northeast.
I digress. As I often do when I talk about Buffalo.
The West Side was home to all manner of people: rich, poor, Italian, Irish, Polish, Latino, African American, German, but mostly Italian. That’s neither here nor there; I mention it to paint a picture of the fact that the ‘hood was rich in tradition, benign religious rituals, and family values. Often I’d see a kindergartner walk to school with his granny and her mom in a wheelchair. Family mattered there. Life mattered there.
Throughout the day at Holy Angels, an ambulance would go by the school as it was nestled between two arterial streets.
When the wails reached our ears, our teacher would stop her lesson and ask us to bow our heads for the people in trouble and to pray for drivers of the ambulance and the doctors who were needed. That everyone would be held in God’s hands and “His will be done.” (Tears are streaming for me at the moment, because thoughts of Boston are pouring into my head — I have hidden from the news, I have played ostrich to the newscasts and the websites; I simply can’t handle it all.)
More often than not, the prayer would be a “Hail Mary.” The final words, “Pray for us, now and in the hour of our death, Amen” pulsing through my ears. Still, now, they do. After a while, the ambulances became more frequent, especially as the weather warmed up, and there was a time when we were saying them every hour. My grandmother had a phrase, “think of the living” when someone would die; she had tremendous faith in the existence of heaven, and I find comfort in that thought, because the dead are at peace. It is their families, the survivors and the injured, who are at times, living in “hell” on earth.
In football, a “Hail Mary” is a last-ditch effort on an offensive drive to score a touch down as the clock is running out. I liken it to getting in to Costco before they start closing down sections while the front doors are still open. I suspect the label is used in other sports, but I don’t really watch too many sports because I find some of the competition and exploitation of the athletes to be disturbing.
I watched a soccer game last night on our DVR: Dallas Vs. LA Galaxy. It was a good game, and with about 4 minutes left, a Dallas player (George John) who’d made numerous uncessssful attempts at a goal, finally had his chance: it was a little murky, but he made it, and immediately after the ball went in, but probably at the same time it was propelled into the goal, a spectator threw a bottle at this player in
idiocy assholicry frustration and injuring John. The projectile, a bottle, hit him in the head (where he’d suffered a major concussion about a year ago) and sent him to the turf grabbing his head in agony, his body curled up like a shrimp as his blood seeped between his fingers and through his dark hair. He got up a few moments later, cleaned up and returned to the game with something like two minutes to spare.
I said a Hail Mary when I saw that. The incident happened on Sunday, before the marathon, but it showed me that humans are awful at times. I said multiple Hail Marys during the day on Monday after I heard about the bombing. But they were in vain; what’s done is done, but it hurtled me back to those days at Holy Angels, when although there was this great truth that there was nothing I could do about whatever was going on, there was something, no matter how small I had to do: offer a moment of peace and love to all involved.
One of the best detached, metaphysical and philosophically elegant posts I’ve ever read about the Boston marathon tragedy and how life goes at times was written by my friend Lillian Connelly at her It’s a Dome Life blog. The post is called “Creativity Vs. Destruction” and if you’ve got about five minutes to spare, indulge yourself and read it.
I read a headline today and it reminded me of a bunch of words that I didn’t used to have in my consciousness or my lexicon:
- suicide bomber
- pressure-cooker bomb
- weapon of mass destruction
- meant to maim
- crude bomb
- mass murder
- school shootings
- pipe bomb
- dead children
- hate crime
- angry mob
- collateral damage
- friendly fire
- first responders
- assault rifle
- security lock down
- baby rape
- gang rape
- armed teachers
- drone strike
- Newtown, Connecticut
- Aurora, Colorado
- Trade Center bombings
I have a neighbor, she’s 30 and still lives with her parents. She drives her dead grandmother’s car. She has a child from an unwed situation (not judging, just giving context) and has recently divorced from another man who was belligerent and abusive to her. Her parents ostensively raise her son: she goes out for take-out for one. He’s a good kid, a little shy but really smart and he has a vivid imagination and he’s luckier than hell that his grandparents are young, fit, healthy and gainfully employed. She has a bumper sticker on her dead grandmother’s car, with a red capital A beside the slogan, “Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.” I try not to grit my teeth every time I pass that bumper sticker. I am all for people having their religious views and stating them; but I really have a hard time with the concept of blasting religious views at the expense and denigration of 3,000 innocent people who were murdered on 9/11. Hail Mary.
Monday was not all horrible in my personal universe: I know of two babies that were born that day, a boy and a girl; and I have a dear friend who celebrated her birthday that day as well. I refuse to live in the darkness about this matter; to court the sadness and to see all of this as horror, melancholy and fear.
But the point, right now, at 10:01 on April 17 2013, is that I can’t do this thing justice; I can’t eloquently express my rage and my confusion at a person or entity that has only hate on its mind.
So, I can go back to my hole, my garden and over-prune my hydrangeas. I can whittle a gorgeous euonymus down to a nub in my fear and my frustration. My garden is my labor of love: it’s the place that reminds me every spring that no matter how downtrodden things might seem, there are forces at work, invisible forces, that remind those hosta spears, and fern fiddle heads, lily-of-the-valley pips, bleeding hearts and unwelcome yet justified maple, oak, or poplar saplings to push through the hard, cold, sometimes frozen, compacted and seemingly dead earth only to fight for their survival; to fight for their spot in the sun.