Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just for a moment

It’s early on a Saturday morning and seven girls are looking in the mirror, writing names backwards on their faces, and checking to make sure their “I Love DS” on their forehead is clear and simple to read. If the girls were five years older, someone might believe they were all victims of leaving their shoes on at a college party. But they are not five years older. They are thirteen and fourteen years old getting ready to go watch their favorite boy band perform for the 20th time in a city they’ve never visited before. They are getting ready to go to what they don’t know is the last concert they’ll all ever attend together. They are getting ready for the funeral on their group’s friendship.

It’s now nine years later, and the seven of them are all in one place, yet again, only this time they aren’t writing names on their faces, and they aren’t getting prepared to spend a day together following a boy band in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. Instead, they are writing their memories on their sleeves and sitting down at a funeral of one of the moms of a girl from the group, one of the people who had helped to bring these seven girls together, one of them being her own daughter.

I like to think that funerals are difficult for a number of reasons. Of course there’s the obvious—we have lost someone who was an important part of our life at least at some point. We are faced with coming up with something to say to the family and friends of the one who has been lost that won’t sound insincere, cliché or terrible. We are introduced with odd moments of awkward silences with people who seem to recognize us and who we seem to recognize but can’t put a name to. And we are faced with ghosts, moments, and friends of our past, people we haven’t seen in years who were at one point, maybe our best friends, who have grown apart from. And of course, faced with sparks of memories—both good and bad.

But we force ourselves through the awkward moments with strangers and through the recollection of memories with the people from our past, and we worry about those who are still connected very deeply to the one person who has left us, and we give our condolences and we sit through a service, shed our tears, and leave the room.

And we sit briefly for a moment, analyzing the moments we had in the viewing room, with the people we faced, the memories we spoke of. And we smile at the thoughts of the one who has passed away, one who always had a smile on her face, a story to tell, and a shoulder to lean on. One who gave us one of the best friends we could have asked for growing up, and one who stood by each of us: One who helped to tie our friendships together, who helped to create and facilitate a group of friends who at one point stood together looking in a mirror, with writing all over their face. A group of friends who may not still be that group, grown apart over time, but who had some good memories along the way. And on a day where so many negatives can fill the void of the space where a friend, or friend’s parent, once filled, it’s better to leave the negativity, even if it’s for just a moment, behind and just take a moment to recognize some of the good times. Even if it’s just for a moment.

Monday, May 2, 2011

While we continue to praise our present condition, we must not forget to protect our future

Nearly ten years ago, there was a teenage girl, sitting in an 8th grade history classroom, who was denied the right, with the rest of her fellow classmates to watch history unfold in the United States--to see the news that surrounded the 9/11 attacks. Nearly ten years ago, there was a teenage girl who questioned how anyone could purposely attack another country, how anyone could take the time to plot an attack on thousands of innocent people. Nearly ten years ago, there was a teenage girl who heard Osama Bin Laden's name for the first time.

"They think it was the terrorist Osama Bin Laden," my friend's mom said to me as we sat around a kitchen counter. Our field hockey practice was cancelled that day, but none of us had a true understanding of why. By 10:00 our teachers had been asked to turn off the televisions in all of the middle school classrooms and to keep their students off of computers. I was 13 years old when the twin towers came down, and by the time I actually knew the full extent of what had really happened, I was 5 hours older.
(This of course doesn't mean I understood it--I still don't to this day).

Each September 11, I am reminded of these memories. Each time I walk past a sign that says World Trade Center, I am reminded of these memories. And each time I look out the window at my office building and see the day-by-day progress of the new World Trade Center going up, I am reminded of these memories. Last night, at 11:00, these memories were again brought to the forefront of my mind as I turned on the television, following a text message that told me Obama was just about to announce that Bin Laden had been killed. This time, instead of sadness assisting my memories, my memories were paired with questions: "Where did they find him?" "How did they do it?" "Were any Americans harmed?" "What's next?"

Watching people gather outside the White House and seeing newscasts of the area outside the World Trade Center, I was instantly filled with chills--my skin covered in goosebumps. "This is a moment we will never forget," I said out loud and to myself.

And now it's time to move on--and remember that despite our victory, last night, despite our old memories now being kindled by newer, better memories, that now what we do to protect our country--will be even greater, that despite reaching a stepping stone--there will be many other obstacles to face, and that we will need to continue standing together, as we embrace what we hope to be a safer-and-better world.
While we continue to praise our present condition--we must not forget to protect our future.

Those who died on September 11, 2001, in the buildings, in the Pentagon, and on the planes- those who died due to injuries, cancer, or other life threatening ailments--and those who died fighting for our country because of the attacks will always be remembered: Their lives, their stories, and their families will always be with us.