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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Opinion: “I’m sad and hopeful sometimes…”

Sunday I saw an old woman with a watering can stepping tenderly, bent, wetting the sun-dried grass of a grave. I was at a stoplight. She struck me as sad, (or was that me) so gentle, hopeful, trying to soothe the singed remains. I wished the fallen beneath could somehow use it. I wondered where the water goes for the grass doesn’t come back? I hoped it might flow infinitely downward through roots and lava, quenching all thirst between. And down, and down, into the core, and there it might soothe the fire.

I thought of the wasteland at ground zero. The collapsed steel, disintegrated stone and shattered glass. Now there are only firemen and steel workers left, the doctors have gone back to their hospitals and homes. 16 acres of charred urban rubble lay looming within the reduced New York skyline. Below: the uncounted, the unidentified.

Karen was talking about the beauty of life. She had a friend in the north tower who had watched a 757 explode into the side of the tower in front of her. She screamed “Terrorists! Terrorists!” as she watched people, hand in hand, leap from the inferno of the upper floors. She ran down the stairs, out the door, down the street, and away, before she could see anymore. Shortly after, most of us tuned in on TV.

She said this girl was really messed-up because it turns out it was one of her friends that jumped. She’d completely broken down, calling her deceased friend’s answering machine weeping, “I would have jumped with you. I would have jumped with you.”

“Can you imagine,” she said.

I thought of the shock it must have been from a desk chair. I saw myself, recovering after the initial impact, and a stranger, (or was that you) in our corner of cubicles. Flames engulf all sides, all sides…but one.

Karen had been in an office building just south of San Francisco in the quake of 88′. Her building rocked from the floor up. She survived. But she said in that position, you sort of accept quickly that you’re going to die. And when that happens, you don’t feel scared anymore.

“It’s like drowning,” she said, “once the lungs fill up with water, it stops hurting.”

She talked about the fragility of life and the end of suffering. “There’s not much choice,” she says. “All you can do is make the best of your situation. You deal with the hand you’re dealt at each moment, I guess.”

“They pulled aces from their sleeves.”

I hear the decision. I see us embracing as the heat increases, the smoke getting thicker from behind. I hear the conversation. The last we’ll say: the tenderness in my wife’s touch, the gentle laughter of your children. Letting go.

The suffering fades. We are not afraid.

“There must have been a peacefulness,” she says. “Serenity.”

I feel a velvet sea pass between us, weightless, hand in hand and eye to eye. I examine your face as if in still life.

I’m thinking of the old lady with the watering can, these passing moments, these fading days living fast and dying slowly. The millions of candles across the nation sniped out by bursts of wind. “Life can be beautiful,” she says.

I remember the flag mourning softly over the glistening grave …

And I pray for rain.

Erick Foley, CAS, ’02