The Reverberations of a Terrorist Attack: In 3 Acts

I’m not going to lie; today has been a rough day emotionally.

Act One

Around 5 years ago, it seemed like I was contacting someone in my life, someone I cared for very deeply for since the day I met him, all the time. At this same time, he rarely reached out, and when I reached out, I wasn’t hearing back from him much at all, or if I did, it was something to hurt me (intentionally or not).

So, I undertook a little experiment, and stopped contacting him at all. This was a little after I was diagnosed with depersonalization. I spoke with my counselor about what I felt was wasting what precious little emotional energy I had left into relationships like this, where I felt I was giving, giving, giving, and getting little to nothing in return.

After an entire year of no contact from him at all, I wrote him and told him how that made me feel. I was honest. I told him I needed a break, I wanted distance (which he’d already supplied), I thanked him for everything, but I just felt everything had run its course.

Part of me wanted him to fight back, to work to put the pieces back together. Part of me knew he wouldn’t. And that second part was sadly right.

And, from that day until a few days ago, except for in a few cases (of ambiguous “likes” and a blank Christmas card — with my condition, he might as well have sent me a Rwandan flag, three twigs, and a Yankee Candle), I heard nothing from him.

I need to add, this was not the first time this had happened between us. There had been periods of radio silence before when he flitted off to do… well, whatever, I guess.

The day after the terrorist attack, he was concerned enough to “reach out” about it and ask how we were. That did really mean a lot to me. But he obviously wasn’t *that* concerned because the rest of the message turned into how hurt and insulted he was by parts of my letter and how I felt.

I kinda felt that that really wasn’t the time and place to bring that up (as he had about 3 years to do that previous to the attacks), and it could have been presented in “broad strokes” much nicer to drop the “finer brush strokes” at a later date. Maybe I’m just sensitive, and I’m strange for expecting everyone to be as sensitive as me; I dunno.

To his credit, he did end the message that maybe we could try to rebridge things in our relationship. Again, something I had said in my letter, and it was something I have always been open to doing.

I honestly didn’t see the message until a few days after he sent it, and I was polite and wrote back to say we were okay, what happened, that I gave him space to process how I felt, and he knew how to get a hold of me about rebridging.

I am not, and I shouldn’t have to be, sorry for how I feel.

True to form, I haven’t heard anything back in the last 3 days. Today, that hit me hard.

In short: I have enough to process emotionally post-quakes and post-attack while dealing with being in partial-remission from depersonalisation without that extra stress in my life.

Act Two

This afternoon, on the way home, Noel decided we should stop and see one of the memorials set up for the victims and survivors of the attack. As if it was meant to be, we found a parking space right away. We walked down to the memorial, which is thousands upon thousands of flowers and tributes and pictures and sayings and phrases, in some places well over 10 feet deep, up against a stone fence separating the city from the botanical gardens. This is about 4 blocks long.

It was a sunny day, and that area was still. The perfume of the flowers was stunning. There were cards everywhere, pictures created by everyone from young children to seasoned artists, and there were so many people paying respect from all walks of life that I often found myself holding my breath, and trying not to cry.

Suddenly, a familiar face was beside us: our friend Dawn. Her face softened and then saddened, and we hugged each other, and we both started to cry. Not simple tears, but really heartfelt crying. And she and I held each other for a long time, and we cried together. Then she and Noel repeated that.

We spoke for a while, and it was nice to have such a wonderful person share that space and time with us. It was, to me, divine intervention for us all. And, after a while, we said our goodbyes and moved apart again.

But I couldn’t stop crying.

A little girl, maybe 4, about the age of one of the youngest victims, put some flowers down at the edge of the tide flowing in of the sea of flowers. She ran back to her dad, but looked at me, and she was scared. Scared, uncertain, sad. And I smiled back at her uneasily. I wanted to lie to her, “Everything is okay. You are okay. You’re such a brave girl.” She buried her head in her father’s shoulder. And I walked off and cried more.

We walked quickly past the rest of the flowers, and we took some photos at the end. Neither one of us could take the pain of walking back past the flowers, so we entered the gardens, and walked back to our car that way: the high tide of the sea of flowers being held back by the fence between the Botanical Gardens and the city proper.

Act Three

Tonight, we kinda veged out watching TV, and I went blank. Emotionally spent. I said to Noel as we drove home from the memorial area that I had tried to throw myself in 110% to try to help people as best as I could in the days after the attack.

There were the odd moments where I’d break down. Monday, I was trying to relax and play a city-building game on my Mac. In the middle of it, I lost it. Like very deep sobs from some deep dark well inside of me.

But in other moments, I have worked so hard to be a rock, or at least solid enough to appear like one, to help. To listen. To console. To advise. To give. To minister. To reflect.

But it caught up with me today.

I go to bed tonight feeling slightly better — tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities — but I don’t know what the dawn will bring.

Please, look after yourselves and look after one another. Life is too damned short.