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Trying to be Normal…Again

Burgas bus bombing

Burgas bus bombing

My stomach is tied in knots. I’m tense and I can feel my heart racing. It’s been so long since I had this sense of dread choking my throat. A terrorist has blown up a bus of Israelis. Not in Israel – in Bulgaria. I’m following the news. Three dead. Five dead. At least seven dead. They aren’t saying children, but there were many children on the buses.

And I remembered an article I had written long ago called, “Trying to be Normal.” It’s not my normal style – whatever that is. It’s a strange article. I thought it was strange when I wrote it – back in December, 2002…almost 10 years ago:

There is a point when sadness turns to anger, when the body ceases to be numb. Even though you dread it, you know that point will come. First there is the shock that it has happened, yet again, on some sunny day when normal people don’t think of despair. Then, the shock gives way to an endless need to see, to hear, to watch.

In part, you watch because you believe that if you can just see it, somehow it will be more real. But, of course, it never is. So you give up on believing that it is normal to feel this way or that way and you accept that you just need to see it. You’ll worry about normal tomorrow because normalcy doesn’t exist today.

As the numbers rise, as they almost always do, sadness comes next. It is the feeling of being haunted and hunted, hated to such an incredible depth that you don’t think they, whoever they may be, can overcome their hatred. The waste of it all, the lives lost. The old, the young, the parents, the orphans. The perfect ones, the good ones, the brave ones. Frozen in time, leaving you to move forwards through the grief and the sadness alone.

The brutality of the attack makes you so depressed. How could someone do such a thing? How is it possible to shoot a baby, target a little boy? How can a human being explode himself intentionally next to a teenage girl, stab a pregnant woman, lynch a 67-year-old grandfather? Such anger they must have, such hatred.

Faced with the cruelty, you realize that you are as much a prisoner of their hatred as they are and that begins to call forth the anger. You cannot be the master of their feelings, but shouldn’t they find a normal way to express their anger? You’ve been angry, you’ve hated, but you didn’t explode yourself, you didn’t shoot anyone. Is this the only way for them to get what they want? And if it is, do they have any right to it?

If you can only birth a nation on the blood of innocent children, what worth will that nation have, what compassion for others? How can it take its place in the family of nations when it is born out of hatred and death and cruelty? But that is their politics and today is for your dead and wounded. Today, it is too much to worry about their dreams for tomorrow when yours wait to be buried. Isn’t it normal to focus on your own grief, you wonder? And again you remember that you no longer know quite what normal is, and that too brings forth the anger.

The anger is like those first moments when the circulation returns to a leg that has fallen asleep. It’s a tingling sensation, unpleasant, sometimes dull and sometimes sharp. The more you explore it, the more painful it becomes. Is it better not to move, not to feel? Is it better to get it over with quickly by releasing it or hold it inside? Wouldn’t it be a relief, just once, to scream and cry and release all the frustration and anger? Wouldn’t that be normal?

You think of bombing them back, of horrible pain inflicted with the hope it will ease your pain. The thoughts bring you no comfort because you don’t want to be like them, you just want it to stop. This isn’t about revenge. Revenge won’t bring them back, won’t erase the pain, the tears, the empty chair in the classroom that will forever be his chair, her place by the window.

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