Thursday, April 19, 2007

Can I get a witness? (Please?)

As the week's gone on, it's become clearer and clearer to me that this horrible event at VA Tech that I can hardly name more specifically is not a thing I'll get over very soon. On Monday, I was in shock; Tuesday a little sad; Wednesday choking-back-tears sad and today I was choking back tears for the half-day that I was at work until I bailed and cried on the drive home. Finally.

And I know now that I won't be over this for a while, maybe quite a while. Because what happened isn't just sad, it's horrifying. And though I'm sure that I haven't really figured it all--or any of it--out, I have figured out that this is a thing that I have to handle, to deal with, to heal from--all the while feeling self-indulgent and guilty for having such a strong reaction. You see, I haven't lived there since 1996.

But it was a very important part of my life. I lived there for four years and loved it and love it still and everyone I talk to who went there is feeling similarly wrecked and surprised at their own shatter. People can't stop crying, people can't talk about it, people can't stop talking about it, people can't get enough of the coverage, people can't wait til we're back to Britney.

And I'd give myself a harder time for taking it all so hard if I thought any part of my reaction were controllable. But it's not. I can't not feel this sad. I can't not be totally normal and laughing one second and on the verge of tears the next, the lump in my throat swelling for the millionth time in a day. I can't not veer from sad to livid and--so help me and I do feel bad--but I couldn't not flick off the guy in traffic today who honked at me for no reason. I was pissed.

I can't not not do laundry. I can't not not wash the dishes. I can't not not talk in too many negatives.

I can't do anything but as little as possible. I did, however, make it to yoga this evening. With the teacher's permission, I made an announcement after class asking people to consider wearing orange and maroon tomorrow and to join Tech alumni at the north side of the Santa Monica Pier tomorrow at 7 pm for a candlelight vigil. No reaction. From anyone.

Then my teacher made her announcement and chuckled to ask if anyone else had any announcements. She's one of my favorite yoga teachers and still, at that minute, I thought a little less of her. And might for awhile.

No one came up to me after class. I wasn't really announcing the vigil or our colors for attention for myself--it really was for all of us Hokies here in LA--but I suppose I was expecting and hoping for a little sympathy.

But this is Southern California and the people who live here live 3,000 miles away from my old home, Blacksburg. They don't get it, they aren't affected, and you can't fake not being affected. So I made the announcement and then we all left.

I couldn't not feel a little disappointed, a little isolated, and very very far from home.


Blogger Lo said...

Thank you so much, SP (and sorry for the looong comment). I, too, feel horribly guilty for being as torn up by the whole thing as I am. I haven't gotten a thing done at work all week. Every morning when I first wake up I don't remember, and then I do and it starts all over again. The lump that you mentioned, the heaviness. I, too, can be laughing one minute and then turn away and start sobbing the next. I haven't lived there in 12 years. I work with a gal who just graduated in December, lived in WAJ and took classes in Norris every semester. She almost stayed on another semester b/c she didn't want to leave (god I remember that feeling). What if she had stayed? I walked in to work this morning and there was a bouquet of orange and maroon flowers on my desk. It all hurts so bad and I don't even have immediate ties to the place, except that I love it intensely, and that makes me feel guilty and selfish b/c its not about me. It's about those poor kids and their families who won't look back at their years at Tech as fondly and with as much love as I do. Who won't marry their college crush and have a cheeky little boy like I do. I feel guilty because I have no right to make this about how I feel and I want somebody to take Monday back and to start all over again. And I'm angry because that can never happen.

6:55 AM  
Blogger newyorquina said...

Dear Emily,

I well remember this ragged, angry, physical grief that inhabits your whole body from the weeks after Sep 11, 2001. And I remember the guilt for feeling sad. Yes, its not "about you" and it "didn´t happen to you." But it doesn´t change that fact that something happened in a place through which you walked. It makes perfect sense you would be racked with grief. Give it time, it gets better, as you know. But for awhile you are going to feel funny for sure. And that is completely natural.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Madelyn said...

I am sure that being in LA doesn;t help. This is not to LA (much). Being in the DC area, while hard because of the prevalence of the story, has also been cathartic. Validating. EVERY alumni I've spoken with feels exactly the same way you do. Perhaps it's a smidge easier here because we can each see our grief in each other's faces. It's heartening to see the orange and maroon (and black) streamers hanging from the trees at the Tech campus here in Old Town.

After September 11, I knew I had to move back home. I am not sure why -- whether it was an anti-LA feeling or just a realization that when horrid things happen (and they always will) you just want to be at home.

8:24 AM  

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