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April 6, 2012 / Rae Spencer

Local News

Navy jets are a fixture in the yard. Their roar punctuates life in Virginia Beach, which is home to Naval Air Station Oceana.

Today, one of the jets crashed. A fiery crash involving apartment buildings. I keep turning the news on, then turning the news off.

I don’t know this instinct, can’t name the impulse that forces me to look and look away and look again. It’s a sour, hollow place in my chest. Cold hands and burning eyes and a restless path from kitchen to television to yard to office to kitchen. It’s a dark weight in my mind, an unfocused pall of helplessness.

For lack of a better word, it’s grief. But why? The accident doesn’t belong to me. And yet I feel an urge to own it, to fold it into my life alongside all the other things that don’t belong to me but touch me anyway.

8 Comments

  1. kathrynmartins1 / Apr 6 2012 7:32 PM

    Hi Rae. Like Virginia Woolf wrote, “We are only lightly covered with buttoned cloth.” Most things can reach us, right?

    I hope you settle soon. Times like these are their own purgatory.

    Kathryn

    • Rae Spencer / Apr 7 2012 1:53 PM

      Today is much better, especially as it seems more and more possible that no one died in this accident. For me, the only useful word in such moments is “miracle”.

  2. Betty Hayes Albright / Apr 6 2012 7:34 PM

    Rae, I understand this feeling of irrational responsibility. I think maybe it’s not irrational after all – that we’re all one, sharing each and every event that ever was and ever is.

    (This was the top story on our news today, 3,000 miles away… so glad that no one was killed!)

    • Rae Spencer / Apr 7 2012 1:56 PM

      “…we’re all one, sharing each and every event that ever was and ever is.” Beautifully worded. I believe this is the exact way of things.

  3. Angela / Apr 6 2012 9:24 PM

    Rae, I hope you’re OK……I just heard the news about the crashes on my way home and was concerned. i suppose I didn’t realize you were right there. I’m so sorry….

    Thank you for writing this. If it helps any, I understand feeling the grief of an accident that doesn’t belong to you. I felt that way on 9/11– well, I suppose we all did, and that that was an event that DID belong to all of us in some way — but it didn’t HAPPEN to me. I was all the way in California. What did happen to me was that I couldn’t get to my newborn son, who’d been born prematurely on 9/4 and was in the NICU at a hospital about 30 minutes south. I couldn’t get to him because the freeway to get there borders a major airport here and it was closed due to the attacks. And as we don’t have TV (haven’t for 20+ years) I really had no idea what was happening but what I heard from the radio, which I couldn’t bear to listen to, but felt like I had to because of the people suffering and because of my son. While I was grieving with everyone in New York and Washington DC, I was also grieving here on my own, alone I suppose because my own personal tragedy was a silent, but no less painful, one…..

    Accidents belong to all of us because we are all connected in our web of humanity. It says something about our humanity that we can grieve with those who have experienced loss or mortal fear. Thank you for witnessing to that.

    • Rae Spencer / Apr 7 2012 2:07 PM

      Yesterday’s accident happened several miles from our house, but it still felt very personal to me. A smaller, less terrifying, and more isolated version of the horror I felt on 9/11. I suspect the history of 9/11 amplified my reaction to yesterday’s crash, as it amplifies everything that has happened in its wake. I suppose everyone has a 9/11 story, which is part of why it lingers, and I’m glad you shared your story here. I hope your son is doing well, and I hope your pain has lessened.

  4. bardessdmdenton / Apr 12 2012 11:49 AM

    There is this connectiveness…especially to our hearts…when tragedies occur…whether near or faraway. I am so glad you are ok and that no one was killed.

    We had a plane crash into a house about fifteen miles from where I live three years ago. Now I always feel a certain panic when a plane flies over lower than seems necessary…

    • Rae Spencer / Apr 12 2012 3:01 PM

      The jets are back in the air, and their roar sounds different. Or maybe I just hear them differently. Or maybe, after so many years of tuning them out, I simply hear them again…

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