Remembering the goodness


What I remember most is how the sound of an airplane crossing the September blue sky made the silence of the previous three days suddenly loud.

We talked about it, then – and wondered that a plane flying above us would ever be such a big deal.

I was 16.

And the only reason NYC meant anything to me in rural East Texas is that Dad used to work right there and he was scared and looked like he might cry.

Then white powder showed up in the Capitol.

The world’s a lot smaller when you’re an adult. And of course Boston and NYC are different and the situations are different and I hope this doesn’t spark another war. Less people died and less were injured but it doesn’t make the marathon any less horrific.

And now tainted letters are again arriving in Capitol mail.

I talked to people this morning who were there, running or waiting at the finish line, and their voices are tired. 

“This isn’t Boston,” she tells me and I think she’s crying on the other end of the phone. “Boston is safe. Boston is phenomenal.”

She uses that word several times. Phenomenal. She refuses to talk about anything she saw, just that Boston is a great place, great people.

On Tuesday just after deadline a woman brings us a loaf of banana bread, hot out of the oven, wrapped in a double layer of tinfoil. There’s a yellow paper flower taped to the note along with it. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to read the paper,” she wrote. “I can’t imagine actually putting it together.”

She was there when the twin towers fell, and I know she is choking again on smoke and dust and rubble and hearing again the screaming wail of fire engines, of people, of carnage.

I think we’re all remembering.

CNN is throwing up “exclusive” and “breaking” banners and every minute it’s something new. The volume is down but I watch from the corner of one eye. I have friends on Capitol Hill but they’re on the House side so selfishly I hope that the suspicious mail doesn’t cross over there. It’s all on the Senate side for now.

Fear can make you selfish.

But on Facebook there’s a picture of Mr. Rogers going ’round in his signature cardigan and a red trolley on his lap and a quote: look for the helpers, he says. Where something bad happens, there are always helpers.

The woman who called Boston phenomenal, she told of emergency workers running toward a bomb, not away. Another local runner told of strangers coming out of their homes with water, food and clothing for stranded competitors waiting for direction. 

The woman from yesterday, I know her nightmares are pressing in again but she gets up in the morning and bakes banana bread, with chocolate chips melting into it.

Then she brings it to us, brightens our dark day.

There’s a yellow flower and a wad of tinfoil still on a newsroom file cabinet.

And while we’re all looking at the darkness and again reminded that we’re not nearly as safe as we think we are, it’s nice to see the goodness too.

And it’s good to remember that a Tshirt or a drink of water or a slice of banana bread can go a long way to brightening the darkest place.

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