Why We Must Continue Writing in Tragedy

I write for a living and I love what I do. It comes easy to me, but yesterday all of the words stopped.

I was sitting in my office, churning out that day’s blog posts for my company—an affiliate of USA Today—when the messages starting coming in.

“I just heard about the terrorist attack you okay?”

“U ok?”

“Are you okay?!!”

My Twitter was blowing up with images of bloody streets and screaming people, people that I didn’t know personally but probably passed on the street. I recognized the buildings, the shops—I had walked by these landmarks multiple times. These were my memories plastered on the screen, and now they were up in smoke.

My entire body went numb, My fingers became incapable of typing out letters. I couldn’t form sentences to my coworkers. All I could do was stare at the news reports playing the same footage over and over again; watching these people continue running despite the devastation (both to and from ground zero). When my boss asked if everybody was okay I couldn’t respond except with slight twitching. I was 45 minutes away from New York City when the World Trade Center fell and now I was even closer to explosions that threatened to tear my city apart.

We have all seen the videos and the photographs and read the eyewitness accounts and have all been dealing with a rush of complex emotions. Our minds are crowded trying to process this tragedy and questions regarding how we are supposed to respond. Numerous people including myself lashed out on Twitter to comments that may have come off as racist or insensitive. While people deal with pain in different ways, it’s a shame that it was so heated that things got convoluted.

As things settled down, I was able to regain my ability to speak and form thoughts and that was when I started writing.

In a way I had all thoughts and no thoughts. I had so many emotions but I had no way to express them besides through anger. Nobody did. Going through editorials and other posts immediately following the explosions (done by people who were a lot more put together than I was apparently) put my anger into perspective. What exactly was I angry about? Was it the closeness of this horrible event? Was it the sheer insensitivity of it all? It put meaning to my thoughts and even when it wasn’t the exact thing I wanted to admit, it was damn close.

There was one post that really stuck out for a lot of people and that was the one by Patton Oswalt, who reflected on everything with an optimism I rarely see anywhere, let alone from comedians.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

I read stories on Reddit of people who stayed long after everything should have shut down to help runners not only with injuries, but to recover lost belongings and locate family members, things that are normally so innocuous that you wouldn’t think about it. Because all they wanted to do was help. That is why we need to keep writing.

The people who wrote down their experiences, their thoughts, their rants are all contributing to the effort. They are sharing words for those that don’t have the means, and providing suggestions for those who want to begin. They create the stories that we will eventually share to others—as evidence that humanity sticks together and that Boston really is one of the most resilient cities anywhere and that there are things actually still going on in the Middle East, and that the world is full of terror and despite all of this, we can make it.

They spread the information we need and weed out the ones we don’t. Even in the most subjectively insensitive posts there is meaning, as that person is expressing an immediate reaction to trauma. Whether or not you agree with what they’re saying, you can understand emphatically. That’s what unites us as a race: when we all go through something together.

The creation of written language was so long ago that people take it for granted, but now we understand why it was made. Sure we can use the spoken word, but there is no finality in it and it is fundamentally flawed. When there are no words to say, how can we really understand anything?

So this is my challenge to everyone. Even if you can’t find the words, I want you to try. You need it, and people out there need it. In the aftermath of events like this, we need to keep on going.

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