The Manchester Blast
“There is no ledge to call home anymore.” This is what it felt like yesterday when my daughter told me about a story she’d read about the explosion at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. “A man came upon a little eight-year-old girl who’d had both her legs blown off,” she said. “He asked her where her parent’s were and she said my dad’s at work and my mom’s up there.” Up there meant dead. She’d died in the explosion.
It hit me, hard. It was as if the energy of that explosion were still moving, traveling out across the sea at the speed of relentless humanity to reach me. It knocked the air out of my lungs, the tears out of my eyes, the solidness out of my bones, the assuredness out of my heart, and it blew apart any kind of comprehension my mind might have thought it had.
How does this happen?
How could anyone ever make a conscious choice to do this?
I do not understand.
I found myself in my own moment of helplessness, blown apart. The whole rug of the world yanked out from under me — again. Yet it didn’t happen to me, right?
I stumbled through my own kind of shock. I took some deep breaths, looked around the room. I was not in Manchester. I didn’t have a bleeding, legless girl before me. My daughter was sitting on my bed staring back at me with her own expression of torment. She wasn’t at that concert and I wasn’t “up there” torn away from her. I didn’t have a police statement to make, questions to answer from reporters, family to call, or a funeral to plan. I could go on living just as I did yesterday. I could walk out the door and take a walk in the redwoods just as I’d planned to do.
Yet, things had changed. That blast blew another piece of my heart and my reality apart. Not in the same way as it did for those who were there, of course, but it happened. That blast blew apart my certainty about tomorrow and it blew open my ability to be more fully here today. It blew in the truth that I have a choice about how I see the world and how I relate to or connect to another human being.
I hugged my daughter, told her I loved her and she told me the same. I walked out the door and went on my walk in the redwoods. I saw these thousand-year-old tree bodies clustered in small groves, leaning against each other. Their lives belong to one another. That’s how they survive. That’s how they thrive for millennia.
Ever day now I enter a new state of incomprehension around what we do and have done to each other and this planet. All the ways we blast ourselves apart into separate pieces in our desperate attempts to be whole.
As I walked along the path I made a choice to suture myself to the broken pieces. To Manchester and all the fragmented bodies, including the one that carried the bomb.
To heal means to be whole. To include everything, especially what we want to leave out. So I brought it all into the darkness stirring in me, the one that wants to see it’s own kind of brutal justice. I sewed them all into the blanket of my heart knowing, they belong to me and I belong to them. And like the trees already know, there really is no ground to stand on, no ledge to call home anymore, except in the way we reach for and lean on each other.
I don’t know what that really means for me, but what I do know is that rather than making me more fearful, it made me more willing to reach out. I passed a woman on the path. I smiled, said “Hello,” asked, “How are you?” really wanting to know. We chatted, I got her name and we made a plan to meet again. My normal way would have been to remain silent or stop at hello. But you never really know what kind of hell someone else might be living in. You never know what kind of lifeline a little kindness might be for someone who is drowning.
My daughter and I recently watched the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why,” and while there is controversy about the depiction of suicide being a reinforcement for it, the thing that the show did very well to illustrate is that had one person — one person — reached out or acted in a kind, more welcoming way, a young girl might not have taken her own life. I can’t help but wonder if the same is true for Salam Abedi.
How can I wrap the whole blanket of myself around a human being lost in fragmented exiled reality?
This is the question, the one the Manchester blast blew open in me.
And I do know the place to begin is with me…
*Opening quote is a line pulled from John Sibley Williams’ book of poems, Disinheritance.