Yikes.

Jun. 12th, 2008 10:25 pm
rivka: (her majesty)
I lived in Iowa City for five years.

Follow that link. Large parts of Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids, and eastern Iowa in general, are now underwater. They're closing part of I-80, one of the country's major east-west interstates. The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports that, due to the flooding of Cedar Rapids, most of eastern Iowa is about to lose Internet service. There are mandatory evacuations of thousands and thousands of homes.

It's pretty horrifying to read about. The chapel where Michael and I were married is expected to be underwater soon. The university art museum. The main university library. All of these buildings are expected to be flooded by the weekend, and the Iowa River isn't even expected to crest until the middle of next week.

Here's how bad the flood is expected to be: "UI had been bracing all at-risk facilities based on a measurement equation of the 100-year flood level plus one foot. Officials have added an additional 18 inches to that equation, which is how much higher they expect the river level to reach." The hundred-year flood level, plus two and a half feet. That's a bad flood.

What strikes me most, reading the coverage in the Press-Citizen, is how orderly and well-planned the disaster response is. And all of it seems to be being organized at the local level. Iowa City was badly flooded in the midwest floods of 1993 - they've been there before, and it shows.

Read more... )Is there going to be a Hurricane Katrina reprise?

No: As with earlier evacuations, public safety personnel will inform residents in a direct, door-to-door canvas. Transportation will be provided to those who require it. Those without housing options will be transported to the Red Cross Shelter at the Johnson County 4-H Fairgrounds. Emergency pet care is available, call 356-5295.

It's not that difficult. You deal with people individually, door-to-door. You provide them with transportation to a safe place. You set up an established, well-supplied Red Cross Shelter. You make provisions for people's animals. Remember Bush's wide-eyed protest, after Katrina, that "no one imagined the levees would burst?" Apparently people at ground level in a disaster like this have no similar shortage of imagination. They know. They know to expect a hundred-year flood, plus two and a half feet.

If I were still in grad school, we'd be sandbagging right now. Or setting up cots at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Or loading up book carts in the library and taking them upstairs. Or something. There would be something we could do to help.

I lived in Iowa City for five years. Now it's underwater, and there's not the slightest hope of improvement any time soon.
rivka: (smite)
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery or a borrowing of misery, as though we are not miserable enough of ourselves but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. - John Donne, Meditation XVII
I have tried to say what needs saying half a dozen times, and haven't been able to continue. I don't want to link to the source material, partly out of respect for the person in whose journal it was posted, and partly out of a desire to protect other people from exposure to that kind of callous blindness.

But.

(1) Secondary PTSD is a well-recognized psychiatric phenomenon, and was so well before the onslaught of the Republican war machine.

(2) There is a substantial difference between empathy and credulity. Someone who is quicker to feel others' pain than you are is not necessarily being manipulated into it.

(3) If you conduct a large part of your social life over the Internet, how can you possibly not understand how other people could be strongly affected by an event that wasn't geographically close to them?

(4) This one is directed at a specific person who I don't even know, and who has only a vanishingly small chance of reading my journal. Nevertheless, if I don't say it, the unspoken words are going to be eating me up all night. So: if you haven't been there? Spare us your pseudo-sophisticated superior lefty cynical detachment and SHUT THE FUCK UP.
rivka: (her majesty)
As long as I kept my momentum, I was okay. Most of the workday was a fine engaging rush forward, but whenever I hit a snag I got derailed. As my first post from yesterday shows.

Traffic slowed to a jam on I-95 as I drove into work, and it occurred to me that something might have happened. I felt trapped, exposed. Sirens and firetrucks on Pratt Street, several of them, and my heart leapt in a wild panic that was completely unreasonable for someone who works across the street from an ambulance bay.

I fantasized about joining a Red Cross disaster relief team the moment I get my license, really helping people next time instead of frantically spinning my wheels.

I was angry all out of proportion. At everything.

I don't want to hear saturation 9/11 coverage on Wednesday Night Baseball. Shut up and call the game. If you must talk about 9/11 nonstop, you are not then allowed to laud baseball as "an escape." (I wanted to avoid the media altogether, but at the gym you can either listen to the radio or TV. The game should've been safe.)

Church was good. I don't remember what they said in the sermon, but I felt understood, and found solace. I didn't know how to pray. Over the candle I lit I said silently, "Dona eis requiem. Grant them all rest, the living and the dead." That seemed to serve.

I composed at least six LJ posts in my head, and didn't make any of them.

I wasn't prostrate with grief. I wasn't paralyzed with anxiety. I was sad and irritable and restless and bothered by the nagging suspicion that I didn't have a right to feel that way. That I knew the feeling to be ridiculous just added more irritation to the mix.

I didn't know what to do with myself.

I'm glad the day is over.
rivka: (mourners)
The Ground Zero site in New York was just officially closed.

I watched on TV from the clinic lobby as the pure aching tones of Taps faded away into stillness, as the police officers and fire fighters held their salutes, as the bagpipes played "America the Beautiful."

Tears sprang to my eyes. And I found myself saying a prayer for the rescue workers, the construction workers, the families, the near-misses. May they be granted rest.
rivka: (mourners)
Oh God!

Anna Pope is dead.
rivka: (Default)
I spoke with my friend and found out that I had gotten some of the details wrong, in ways that (sorry) may have reduced plausibility of the story. Some details are vague because of the girl's limited English.

On the side of this being real, or at least, less damning than the way I originally told you the story:

My friend's correspondence with the girl began last spring, well before Sept 11th, and before the girl had come to the U.S. (She was at that point living in/attending school in U.A.E., was planning to come to the US to attend math summer programs and started posting to the newsgroup because she wanted to talk to people in the U.S. about what it would be like to come, what kind of things to wear, etc.) The family has money (hence the private planes, and the ability to send a daughter to the U.S for education, and the ability of some family members to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power), but only the grandfather was in favor of her getting educated, and he died on Sept 11th. She had attended 2 summer programs (Smith, and ? second program in California) and was going to stay and get placed in a school this fall to continue, when all this upheaval happened in this country and in her family.

The guy who originally contacted my friend to make sure she was an appropriate email contact for the girl was an associate of the family; he's the one who returned to Afghanistan and was killed along with other members of the family in the fire started by the Taliban. My friend has his name; don't know at this point if there's any way to confirm whether he died as we've been told. His contact with my friend was by email.

The U.S. contacts were not actually a host family (I was wrong about that.) The couple who died in the WTC were actually a teacher in her summer program and the teacher's husband. The Afghan girl had become close to them over the summer, eaten in their home, etc. The other U.S. contact was a man who was working as a liason to place her in a U.S. school. She stayed with him and his family for a short time after Sept 11th, until family members came and over-rode his authority to keep her. My friend has emailed him (as have other people in the newsgroup) and got a response on the lines of "I share your concerns and am doing everything I can..."

On the side of this not being real:

1. odd that her current "caretakers" could be so unaware of her ability to use email to communicate with outsiders. She apparently has been able to use both her handheld device and (in the middle of the night) possibly her desktop without being detected.
2. she sent my friend a photo of the prospective husband. Can a palm-type device handle something large like that? I won't even bother speculating about scanning the photo in, etc. because I'm assuming if she had it and sent it, that she received it electronically in the first place (which again raises questions about #1--how it is that the relatives are allowing her access to email, if they understand what it is.)

Thanks for your suggestions; my friend is going to call Smith College tomorrow and try to verify that the girl attended their summer program and see if they have any contact information. She's also going to email the girl to suggest that she email police, FBI, and/or State Dept directly with her story.
rivka: (Default)
Last night my sister told me a story. I'm going to recount as much of the story as I can, just as it was told to me, and I'd very much appreciate your thoughts.

My sister's friend participates in a newsgroup devoted to a TV show. On that newsgroup, some time ago (more than six months), she began corresponding with a 13-year-old Afghan girl who was in the U.S. to attend school. The girl's guardian was her grandfather, who had very progressive ideas about educating women. Because of that, and because the girl is a math prodigy (although she writes in very broken English), he arranged for her to attend school in New York.

On September 11th, her grandfather had a heart attack and died when he saw the WTC disaster covered on TV. Her U.S. hosts were both in the World Trade Center at the time, and died in the attack. Back in Afghanistan, the rest of her close family was killed when Taliban forces burned their house down. She has therefore come under the custody of distant relatives.

These relatives do not believe in educating girls, and have forced her to leave school. They have arranged her marriage to a 60-year-old man in Afghanistan, against her will. She is still in the U.S., but they moved her a couple of times in a private plane, and she has no idea where she is. She is not permitted to leave the house or contact anyone. She is only able to contact my sister's friend because she has a handheld computer which her guardians don't realize is equipped with e-mail access. She is becoming progressively more despairing, and my sister's friend is becoming progressively more frightened for her.

My sister's friend called the FBI, and was told that without any information about the girl's location there isn't much they can do.

What do you think?
rivka: (shrine)
Life's getting back to normal, although I'm still following the news with more vigor than usual. I've also been unusually tired. I thought I was coming down with some kind of bug, but now I'm wondering if it was just accumulated stress.

It's a good time for me to be getting back to full alertness and concentration, because things are heating up at work. Lydia and Lauren (the new intern, who is also my new meatspace friend) came up with the idea of studying HIV+ patients' stress and coping in response to the disaster, and seeing whether stress was correlated at all with changes in immune function. So Lauren's trying to get the proposal together, and she's never done anything like that before so I'm shepherding her through the process. I'm dubious about whether she'll come up with anything - I think by the time the study gets approved and off the ground, too much time will have passed since the bombing and our patients won't be stressed about it anymore. Oh well, doesn't cost anything to try, I suppose. And - we're all stepping sort of hesitantly around this, not wanting to say it - if something else happens, we'll already have the study approved.

*shudder* Ick. Ugly things can happen to the minds of people who study stress.

At any rate, that's not the only new project. Read more... )
rivka: (mourners)
My clients are struggling with a lot of the same issues I am right now. Except in some ways their sense of helplessness is worse. I keep hearing again and again: "I can't even donate blood."[1] One said to me, "I'd go [in the army] in a minute. I've got this virus - I'm expendable. But they wouldn't take me." And most of them don't even have any extra money they could donate. It's hard.


[1] I mostly work with people who have HIV or cancer.
rivka: (Default)
Misha and I watched a PBS documentary this evening, People Like Us. According to the Baltimore Sun, it's the first major US television program dealing with the subject of social class. It was fascinating, hearing people articulate all of the class markers that are usually unspoken or even subconscious. One of the things that struck me most - and I don't know whether this is the bias of the film-makers coming through, or whether it really is the prevailing opinion in America - was that people at every social level seemed to share the conviction that you can't change your class. You can accumulate money, but you can't change your class. That seems particularly interesting in light of the fact that most middle- and upper-middle-class Americans seem to assume that everyone wants to join their class. That people aspire, not only to their bank accounts, but to their lifestyles and possessions and goals. Maybe some do, but I got the strong impression from this documentary that it's not as universal as the purveyors of "the American Dream" (note the singular noun) try to convey.

(I'm not finding myself as eloquent about this as I wanted to be. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow. But see this documentary if you can, if they rerun it (or haven't run it yet) in your area.)

Someone on rasseff posted a pointer to the cover of this week's New York Times Magazine. It took my breath away. It's... beautiful and wrenching, in equal parts. Hard to look at. Hard to look away from.

We went back to church today. They went ahead with their obviously-long-planned celebration of having restored the first of their Tiffany windows. (This is a gorgeous church - Romanesque architecture and seven authentic Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass windows. I thought Unitarians were supposed to be simple, plain folk. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.) So there was glorious music and joy in beauty and celebration - and then of course, still the agonies of mourning. New names to add to the list of Maryland dead. A sermon filled with pain. And then an elderly woman talking about the church history in her lifetime - rioting in the streets of Baltimore after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. White flight to the suburbs, and the church half-abandoned. Marked for charity by other UU congregations. Wondering if their mission had become irrelevant. And then the congregation rebuilding, and re-dedicating themselves, and growing, until now they have the luxury of spending energy thinking about how their windows look. (They're going to put lights over the windows on the inside, so that people walking the streets of downtown Baltimore at night will be able to see the beauty of the stained glass. That's cool.)

It was good to be reminded that things have seemed as dark as they could possibly be, before. That in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it must have seemed as though America's cities were self-destructing, that open race war would break out, that there was no hope in trying anymore. I've read things from that era, and that's certainly the sentiment. But Baltimore - rough as large parts of it still are - is really coming back. Other cities are as well. They thought they could see our well-greased way right to the bottom of the pit, and they were not entirely correct. It's good to be reminded of that.

In petty personal news, I'm trying to decide whether or not to go to Capclave. There's an ever-increasing list of cool rasseff people who are going to be there, and it's only a few miles away from where I live. I couldn't go for the whole weekend, probably, but I could get a one-day membership for Saturday. So why not? Strangers. There will be strangers there. It's the same story it always is. There would be all of these incredibly cool rasseff people whose posts I admire, and then there would be me feeling shy and geeky and out of place and unable to talk to anyone. Yes, I realize how ironic and stupid it is to worry about being too geeky for SF fandom. I may just be beyond hope.
rivka: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] rmjwell posted a link to this declaration:

IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM


1. On September 11, 2001 thousands of people lost their lives in a brutal assault on the American people and the American form of government. We mourn the loss of these innocent lives and insist that those who perpetrated these acts be held accountable.

2. This tragedy requires all Americans to examine carefully the steps our country may now take to reduce the risk of future terrorist attacks.

3. We need to consider proposals calmly and deliberately with a determination not to erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life.

4. We need to ensure that actions by our government uphold the principles of a democratic society, accountable government and international law, and that all decisions are taken in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

5. We can, as we have in the past, in times of war and of peace, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty.

6. We should resist the temptation to enact proposals in the mistaken belief that anything that may be called anti-terrorist will necessarily provide greater security.

7. We should resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background or appearance, including immigrants in general, Arab Americans and Muslims.

8. We affirm the right of peaceful dissent, protected by the First Amendment, now, when it is most at risk.

9. We should applaud our political leaders in the days ahead who have the courage to say that our freedoms should not be limited.

10. We must have faith in our democratic system and our Constitution, and in our ability to protect at the same time both the freedom and the security of all Americans.

Go here to see a list of organizations endorsing this statement. Go here to endorse it yourself.
rivka: (mourners)
But what the hell, I'll post it anyway. I was surfing the Random LJ link, and came across this entry:

Why isn't anything happening? [13 Sep 2001|08:03pm]
[ mood | aggravated ]
[ music | Azn Dreamers - Keep the Flame Alive ]

Well my life this week has been completely and utterly boring...the only thing that really makes me happy is cheerleading and that was canceled because of this whole terrorist thing...i wish it would just end already...neways...i have had no homework to stress over which is a good thing i guess...no tests...no boy problems...no friend problems so i guess life is good...but sometimes i wish that i had some sort of excitement in my life right...i mean the best part of my week is when i get to hang out with my friends or talk to the ones i don't see very often...when i don't have anything important to think about...i start to think about things i shouldn't be worrying about at this time...like when i move...am i going to be the same person...will i have a lot of friends...or what i mostly care about...will i have fun? I want to leave, yet i don't...occording to my mother i have it so good in my life right now and the things that i want will come eventually...but when is what i want to know...moving would mess it all up..but it just leads to a fresh start with new opportunities...well this whole entry is based on the fact that i have too much time to think and i starting to scare myself anyway gtg...later!


Well, I guess a terrorist attack that leaves more than 6,000 dead and launches the nation toward war is a bad thing, if it means that cheerleading is cancelled.

No, I know. I know that the world would not be a better place if we all put on sackcloth and ashes and did nothing but mourn the dead and worry about the future. But it's weird to follow random journals and see the shock and horror of 9/11 so quickly replaced by crushes and homework and standard teenage angst.

I've been telling friends and clients: it's okay to return to your normal activities. It's okay to enjoy things. It's okay to stop following every minute of horrifying coverage. You don't owe it to the dead to remain in suspended animation, focused on nothing but the tragedy.

I guess I don't quite believe myself.
rivka: (mourners)
I guess that, having skipped two days, I should update my journal.

Why haven't I been writing? I've mostly run out of things to say about the World Trade Center bombing - or the energy to say them with. And everything else in my life seems kind of irrelevant.

And I've been sick - just a low-grade bug with fatigue and muscle aches and headaches and nausea. Somehow, knowing that stress is associated with immune suppression and illness does not protect me from experiencing the effect. I thought knowledge was supposed to be power.

I finished the IRB revisions - remember how upset I was about them? Heh. Had a mad rush today to get them in on time, because Lydia was slow in getting her part of the job to me. (I had written the revisions. She wanted to revise what I wrote. She dictated her revisions to me, over the phone, less than one hour before I was supposed to have eighteen variously-collated-and-highlighted copies in the hands of the IRB.) But who cares? It's just paperwork. It's just administration.

Starhelm's Army Reserve unit has given him the option of volunteering to go, or waiting for the whole unit to be called up. [livejournal.com profile] saoba says he'll probably volunteer. It'll be his third war. Jesus.

Misha told me today that he'd checked to see if he could enlist. (Not at 34, apparently, he can't.) He hadn't told me before because he thought it would worry/upset me. Which of course it would. Does. Part of me wants to be angry with him - how could he even think of putting himself on the front lines? He's not expendable, damn it, I need him! - but that's not fair. Not when there isn't anyone else I could look in the eye and send in his place. Not when I understand, as deeply as I do, his drive to do something to help. Not when he understood my calls to the Red Cross, the American Psychological Association, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, trying to volunteer my psych skills to the survivors and the bereaved. No. I'm disturbed and disquieted, but not angry.

There will be plenty for us to do here, I told him. And there will. I believe that it's going to take damn near everything that most of us have, to keep this country and this world places we want to live. To care for the hurt, to stem the spread of hatred, to promote understanding, to protect our civil liberties and the civil liberties of non-citizens among us. To preserve our safety. To rebuild. There's so much more to be done than vengeance.
rivka: (mourners)
...but for some reason, this really helps. It's pictures, dozens of pictures, of memorial observances worldwide. It's... beautiful. If you've been feeling scared and alone, I highly recommend it. (You might want to turn off the music, though.)
rivka: (shrine)
There's an article in today's Washington Post about college students re-evaluating their expectations for the future. There wasn't much in the way of excitement to join up and start killing Arabs. What there was instead was quiet determination: "If other American boys are dying for peace, what makes me more important than them? I could see myself [enlisting], if I feel that it's needed." And some new resolve: a guy who dropped out of pre-med classes signing up again, because he wants to be able to help.

We've heard a lot about the "Greatest Generation," always with the unspoken assumption that the country has been in a long downhill slide since then, that the current batch of young adults are lazy, spoiled, thoughtless, ignorant drones. That we could never be worth what our grandfathers were. But I've been noticing the ages of some of the fire fighters and EMTs quoted in the news: 21. 22. 24. I see these students quoted in the Post, their seriousness and readiness to take up what may be asked of them. And - as much as I've been distressed by the bloodier calls for vengeance - in the last few days I've mostly seen people being careful and thoughtful, trying to work out the best way to go. I've seen people doing their best to be decent to each other, not just members of the "Greatest Generation," but members of my generation. Are we lazy, spoiled, and ignorant? We might seem that way. But it's not the sum of us.



Bill can't really hide the fact that he wants to be called back to active duty. He said today that he was worried that he would scare me by talking about it. Well. If he's called back, I expect that he's not likely to go any further than Quantico and his old analyst's position - and it would just be melodramatic of me to wring my hands over that. If it got bad enough that they needed to send a (sorry, Bill) several-years-retired 47-year-old man into mortal danger overseas... then it would bad enough that any fears I might have for his safety would be entirely beside the point. If the national or world situation became desperate, what right would I have to demand that my own should be spared?

I wish there were something I could do. Something more than speaking out against prejudice, giving blood, donating money to disaster relief. Something big. I can't fault Bill for feeling the same way. If the Marine Corps need him, I hope they'll call him. And if there's something he can do, I'll be proud.
rivka: (shrine)
We went to services today at the First Unitarian Church. It was the first time since the tragedy that I came together with a large group of people, with the structured purpose of mourning. It was painful, but it felt important - and it helped.

At every service there is a time for people to come forward and light candles in silent commemoration of their joys and sorrows. This morning the line stretched most of the way around the sanctuary. I lit a candle for [livejournal.com profile] banesidhe, [livejournal.com profile] clairaide, [livejournal.com profile] fimbrethil, Harry, and Brigid. May their hopes be fulfilled, and their spirits be comforted.

Later in the service, the ministers read the names of the Maryland dead. There were a great many of them - people who worked at the Pentagon, people on the flight out of Dulles, people who left Maryland for New York. We read together a litany of remembrance, reminding us that those lost will always be with us. We gave offerings for disaster relief. The sermon was about struggling to come to terms with an American self-identity, about longings for home and security, about being fearful of differences, about struggling with anger and avoiding hate, about refusing to turn away from Muslims and Arab-Americans, about the goodness of the human spirit, about the dilemmas faced by people of good faith in trying to decide between calling for nonviolence and supporting a military response.

We sang a hymn, one of my favorites. The tune is Sibelius' Finlandia; you can find it here.

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

I tried to keep my voice steady through the hymn, but broke on the last line, and sobbed. Really sobbed for the first time, although tears have come to my eyes before. Continued to cry as they asked us all to hold hands and form one large circle around the cavernous sanctuary, as we stood for the blessing, as we sang God Bless America a capella and in unison. As we were embraced by friends and by total strangers.

It really helped. It was achingly painful, but it helped. It helped to grieve with others, and to hear others struggling with the same questions about peace versus justice. To hear someone else articulate the ambiguities of American identity. To hold hands.
rivka: (mourners)
An Afghan living in the US writes eloquently about the Afghan political situation and the dangers of war.

(Thanks to the TOCOTOXling for pointing me to the original version of this article - I had originally linked to an uncredited version someone copied into his LJ.)
rivka: (shrine)
At 6:55 this evening, I suddenly remembered the e-mailed call to carry a candle outside at seven. I called out to Misha, and we decided that it would probably be a good thing to do. Fortunately, I had a box of plain white emergency candles and a bx of matches handy in my desk drawer. We walked out through the covered ground-floor passageway of our apartment building and onto the sidewalk. At first, I saw no one else. Then I caught a glimmer of candlelight among people about a half-block away, whom I had thought were just walking to their car. And looking up, I saw two balconies lit with candlelight, and pale faces.

We lit our candles, but the wind soon blew them out. Eventually we gave up on relighting them and walked back to stand in the mouth of the covered passageway. We leaned in to each other and watched our candles burn. It wasn't quite twilight. An airplane flew by overhead.

After a few minutes, the two of us sang the national anthem quietly and meditatively, with more grieving determination to it than pomp and glory. I was reminded that the lyrics are about emerging from the wreckage of a disastrous attack with our national identity and sense of purpose intact, and suddenly wondered why I've heard so many more renditions of "God Bless America" in recent days.

Coming back inside, I found that I really, really didn't want to blow my candle out. We set them in our massive pewter candlesticks - two small white emergency candles - and they've spent the last three and a half hours slowly burning down.

It seemed fitting to play the Mozart Requiem, and to look online for the English translation of the text.

Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictus.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis,
Gere curam mei finis.

When the damned are confounded
and consigned to keen flames,
call me with the blessed.
I pray, suppliant and kneeling,
a heart as contrite as ashes;
take Thou my ending into Thy care.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine:
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

That day is one of weeping,
on which shall rise again from the ashes
the guilty man, to be judged.
Therefore spare this one, O God,
merciful Lord Jesus:
Give them rest. Amen.

I just went and checked on the candles. They're still burning.

Take thou my ending into thy care. Spare this one, O God, give them rest.
rivka: (Default)
There seems to be a powerful temptation right now to shape what's happened into some sort of meaning. To draw some sort of conclusion, some way of encompassing this. To conclude that the world is random, terrifying, and dangerous, that humans are hopelessly born to hatred, that the only way to transcend evil is to present the specter of still greater evil. To believe that the pretty illusions have been stripped away, showing us the darkness of the human heart.

But.

In the World Trade Center, a woman who uses crutches was carried out by co-workers, from the 64th floor to a safe distance from the building. One man carried her down 54 stories by himself, despite being urged by rescue workers - at the 20th floor - to put her down and go on by himself, because the building was secure.

Two men carried a person in a wheelchair from the 68th floor to safety.

These men are as much an example of our species as the bombers are. Their actions are as much a part of human nature as hatred and evil are. Humans are heroic, and evil, and brilliant, and stupid, and perfectly ordinary, and all the rest. In none of these traits is our "real" nature revealed.

The bombing does not define us. The bombers don't define us. The bombers don't define our future. It may be natural to try to identify the grand meaning, to find the bombing as significant and overarching in a cosmic sense as it is in an emotional sense. To believe that all of this means more than: terrible things sometimes happen.

But terrible things happen.

Full stop.

It doesn't have to mean anything.

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