Saturday, February 12, 2011

To The Faithful Departed

I've spent a lot of the last few days dealing with the consequences of one man's actions. There has been a lot to do--providing a proper funeral for the dead, caring for the injured from the attack, and consoling those whose injuries are too severe. Who are alive and in agony, but can't survive the inevitable infections that will take root in them and flourish. So many other consequences, though, that the repercussions of the soldier's choice to attack us will be felt here for a long time.

There are families that lost members. Lovers who've lost their spouse. I think I've lost count of the number of times I've said this over the last eleven months, but can you imagine the fury going through their minds? To survive together through all that we've been through, or to lose a husband or wife only to find love again in what should be nearly impossible circumstances...and then have that taken away? Not by zombies or the bitter cold, things that have no thought process of their own, but by the willful choice of a human being--acting in a manner that has defined human beings for thousands of years.

Ronald Reagan once said that the only threat that could bring humanity together as one unified force was that of an extraterrestrial invasion. I think the zombie plague constitutes an equivalent threat, at least in a practical sense. Sorry to say, the Gipper has been proven wrong on that score. We face a threat to the existence of our race, and yet still a large number of people are bent toward behavior that is destructive to the possibility for survival in the long term.

The core idea behind Mr. Reagan's quote is right, though. Tragedy, especially pointless violence, brings people together. Compound tragedies combined with an already common purpose makes allies into something unique and beautiful.

It makes us family.

As if some tiny but important switch has been thrown in our brains, the people here have come together in ways that defy explanation. I used to view the refugees and myself as something different than the citizens of North Jackson. We were visitors. Friends in need of help. We were friends with the people here, but guests in need of succor. Now, we're treated the same as everyone else. We cried our eyes out when we shared loss. We saw children die in front of us. We've all suffered from the attack, but we did it together. There was no thought of my people or their people.

Just our people. Just regular folks with a common goal--building something new and better on the wreckage of the old and broken. I feel as though we've managed a good start on that, partly because of this tragedy. Losing so many at once has crystallized our urge to cooperate. It has made us more tolerant of our differences. It has made us close and strong, like a fabric whose threads are being pulled tighter together on the loom.

There is still a lot to do. We're preparing for the return of our final lost group--Patrick and his girls should be freed from their location soon. Jamie and Dodger cleared a path on their way in, so the return trip should be much faster. There that, and the physical damage to the wall and the rest of the area around the explosion. The wall is top priority, of course. There's the continuing needs of the injured to be met, and decisions to be made for those who live in pain but can't survive. Hard decisions...

I will leave you with this. I want to end this post, a sad and painful thing that reminds me of the taste of ashes, on a higher note. It might be strange, but I'd like to say something to the victims, though they are past hearing (or reading) my words now:

Though I may not have known you, I loved you. In this dark and frightening world, you were points of calm light and warmth when the chill wind rushed in to bite. You were what we, the survivors, should all aspire to be; hardworking, fair, supportive, caring. You were so many other things, both good and bad, in your variety as a group. That was what we lost that day. We lost a collection of potential that the world simply can't get back. For all your faults, you had many more wondrous and positive traits. You might have been the nicest person to be found, or curt and surly--either way you proved time and again that you would risk your life and limb for those around you. You were men, women, and children that came together in a time of desperate need to save each other.

You will be missed. I may not have known you, or at least known you well, but I could not hope any harder that you find the embrace of whatever god you hold to. It is my deepest wish that each of you finds solace now in a place of peace and glowing warmth, far removed from the struggle that defined you here. That struggle outlined your grace and moral strength. May you live forever in that world of perfect satisfaction, the pain and fear long forgotten, the dead no longer your enemy, only old friends and loved ones to be reunited with.


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