Monday, April 20, 2009

Ten Years

The Guardhouse at the Top of Machu Picchu. (Yeah, I'm posting new pictures one at a time to give my fellow readers something to look forward to.)

As I turned on my computer this morning and fired up my RSS reader, I was surprised to read the news that today was the tenth anniversary of the shootings at Columbine. As the day went on and everyone chatted about their surprise so much time had passed and the discussions about what everyone remembered about that day I had a lot of things flash through my mind I hadn't thought about in years.

I was an eighth grader living in the suburbs of Denver at the time, I was attending middle school on April 20, 1999. I remember the lunch room, and looking up at the clock at 11:20. Later we learned that was the time that the shooters entered the high school, but I was just checking to see how much time I had to finish my Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets. (Yeah, my middle school had fast food, didn't yours?)

That afternoon I was sitting in English. The principal came to the classroom door and murmured something to my teacher Ms Byrne (Known for her tough classes, short skirts, and love of the Denver Broncos. She would give you an A regardless of your performance if you got her something signed by a member of the team.) It was a warm spring day and she had her outside door open. She slammed it shut, locked it, and sat down at her desk looking shaken.

The rest of the day I remember in bits and pieces. I remember sitting on the bus staring out at the pond by my house wondering exactly what this would mean for me. I remember my mother's face and her nearly painful hug as I walked in from school. I remember I was wearing overalls with chapstick in the front pocket. (Yeah, and I'm sure they were sexy too.) I remember friends and relatives calling in from around the country to make sure that we were all okay.

What I remember most, and what has had the greatest impact, is what happened next. My school went under lockdown for the rest of the school year. Armed policemen (with big guns I remember) stood at the entrances and if you entered the school during school hours you had to ring a doorbell and the policemen got to scrutinize you, even if you were just coming in from a run with the rest of your gym class. I remember schools closing at a moment's notice due to bomb threats, things that were no longer stupid jokes by seniors. I remember walking the grounds at Columbine, visiting the grassy hills I had seen students fleeing from on television days earlier. We brought white flowers, and I got to see my childhood hero, Stone Phillips. I vividly remember the school sign's message, "GO BAND".

Mostly though, I remember the fear. School was always a safe place, though at times it could be scary if you had done something wrong or had a verbal report to present, but it was never dangerous. I had never had to worry about my fellow students or anything so raw as guns and bombs. School was not safe, life was not safe; a difficult concept for a thirteen-year-old to process.

I learned a lot of lessons in the aftermath of that Spring day. It was my first real interaction with mortality and the reality of life, something that I have since become intimately familiar with. There was a lot of speculation that the boys were angry because of their music, their video games, their movies, their parents, their bullies; and I understand the need to find a cause and fix the catalyst that would cause two children to mercilessly kill their classmates; but there is no way to comprehend some things that happen in our lives. They are senseless, mind-blowing, life-changing, and we must have faith that somehow there is a plan for all of us and that we don't need to have all of the answers, because someone else does.

My blog posts have all been quite heavy as of late... I suppose it's because I'm down and working through some stuff. I'll try and post some more uplifting things soonish.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sacred Valley

Me at the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Last month we commemorated the year anniversary of the passing of my sister Jocie. It was a sad day, but mostly it was happy. As with most of these events, the anticipation is usually much worse than the day itself; I dealt with most of my demons earlier in the week. It was happy because my family made it to the one year mark, changed people, but we made it. I found the aftermath of "Jocie's accident" as my mother calls it, strange and hollow initially but now that's come to be normal. It's become normal to have an even boy/girl ratio in my family, normal to watch my parents cry, normal to have a nagging feeling when we're together that someone isn't there. Because she isn't. But even that is becoming normal. A depressing normal, but one that we need to come to terms with nonetheless.

I feel obligated in some ways to talk about these things because it's good for me, but also because I know that there are people out there suffering with loss in all of its forms; whether it's loss of a sister, friend, pet, or just a lost dream; regardless I think that the only way to get through these unthinkably difficult times is to reach out to our friends and family and to let them help shoulder the burden when we have become broken under its weight.

Unbelievably, not all that has come out of this accident is sorrowful. Most notably, my relationship with my sister Dione has changed in ways I never would have imagined before. We've always been like oil and water, as different in personalities as we are in looks, though most wouldn't realize it because we act the same in public. Now we have no choice, we have to make it work. I was sick a couple of weeks ago and Bob was out of town; Dione heard from my mother and dropped everything, driving through a blinding snowstorm to sit up the night with me before leaving early the next morning to make it to her classes. I know that we loved each other before, but I don't think that either of us would have made such a sacrifice, such a gesture. Now we appreciate our relationship; we've both lost a sister.

We've had one hell of a year, but we're still here. The relationships that weathered the storm are stronger now than ever. We are more honest, less willing to play games, and we end our conversations with "I love you." You never know when you're not going to be able to say it again.

I still have days where I can't breathe because I miss her so much, but those are spreading further and further apart, and mostly I just think about how great she was and how much I miss having her around. I don't think that I will ever stop missing her, or mourning her. I don't think there's any way to "return to normal," but there is a way to move forward. I also don't think I'll ever fully resolve the 'why' of such a senseless tradgedy, at least not in this life. But I've come to terms with that, most days anyway.

If you're ever struggling with loss or grief or know someone who is and would like to help them, I'd love to be there for you like so many people were for me. I'd love to earn the mitzvah.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Last month, Bob and I took another jet-setting adventure. This time, we went to Peru. It's taken me forever to blog about this because a lot of crap happened, and then I just got lazy. I'm not going to lie to you folks, it just wouldn't be fair.

This is a picture of the main square in Cuzco with a view of the main Cathedral. The base of this and many other buildings in Cuzco are remains of the orignal Incan temples/houses. The Spanish came, conquered the Incans, gave many of the natives smallpox, and destroyed their buildings, putting their own directly on the previous foundations. Stupid Europeans.

These are the ruins of an elaborate fort right outside the city of Cuzco called Sacsayhuamán (pronounced sort of like sexy woman). The only stones left are those that the Spanish couldn't carry off.

Machu Picchu as you first come upon it. This is definitely the most incredible place I've ever been, there was a really cool vibe about it and the place was shrouded in mystery. I suppose the clouds that habitually roll in over the mountaintops do a lot to help said mystery. Also, we hiked to the top of that mountain in the background, the one half covered in clouds. It was awesome.

We have hundreds of pictures, but I don't really have the heart to search through them all for my very favorites. If you want to see more, I guess you'll have to invite us over for dinner, or do the pop-in!

Blogging is theraputic, I'm glad to be back.