Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to tell time.

A little one room red school house on the slope of a holler in Clay County, KY. Part of me is still there, with all that happened, with the children I met, who are now all old and probably grandparents if they live. Every morning I live on earth gets compared to those dewy mornings, the Kentucky sun slowly etching its way across the wet, dark mountains. A distant farmer already at work, plowing with a mule on the nearly vertical slope of next ridge, defying gravity. Poke shoots, blackberries, wild strawberries pushing their way up through the scrabble at the side of the road-- can't pick it because the coal companies spray it all with poison. I find myself on the coal road in my mind, half an eye out for the speeding trucks spilling coal as they turn, the kids grabbing their leavings, to take home for the furnace. There'd be heat come winter. I went with the other teachers to their family homes, sat on their porches, picking peas and chatting, making room for ourselves in their lives. Getting to know a world so different from my own, a world I recognize in many of the countries I've visited since. I can call it all back in an instant.

But I can't remember how to get there. And there is no one left who knows the way. I am old.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The truth is out.

At least now I know. I know why Jesse lost his life, why he suffered, who is to blame. I know I can get some compensation for the medical bills, if not the suffering we have all endured. I know his killers are dead. I know the ringleader was hunted down like a dog and shot in his own home. Don't expect me to feel bad about that. Don't expect me to be objective about drones dropping bombs. It may come one day, but right now, I feel a sickening joy at the thought. Someday perhaps I'll have the luxury of being ashamed of the desire for vengeance.

It's more difficult to imagine vengeance on the accessories to his death. They're after all, full of reasons for telling us the air was ok to breathe, that we didn't need to evacuate above 14th Street. That leukemia wouldn't have been caused by breathing the smoke that drifted in our closed windows day in and day out. Jesse's brother wore a surgical mask every day until the fires were put out at last, in march. Jesse didn't think it was necessary. His brother didn't spend all of his time here on 17th Street. Jesse did. Not everyone got sick, I know. But what Jesse got, only a few hundred people get in a given year. Around the whole world. And it's on their list. 

There is no word for a mother who's lost her child, because this is how the world works. We give birth with no guarantees. I can never add up the value of life he would have had, the wife, the children, my grandchildren and great grandchildren who will never be; the jobs, the contributions he would have made to the world. I can tell you his intentions. All of us knew who he wanted to be and the changes he was working toward making in the world. Unlike so many 9/11 families, I had 6 extra years with him that thousands did not have. And for that I am grateful and lucky. But like them I have paid dearly. And pay, and pay, and pay.

Happy 9/11, America.