Making sense of what is happening is beyond me. Bombs at Boston Marathon unmoored me--along with many, many others [live feed from Boston CBS]. Grandmothers need to think more clearly. I'm in search of better language for upbeat conversation about the future.
Pretty and pink on the street here in Portland, Oregon. Slight distraction from the news...state legislators may lose their will on gun control as they did in Congress...dumbness from dependable right wing--New York's Steve King in the House uses Boston tragedy to put skids on immigration reform.
The first image I saw of the explosion at the Boston Marathon brought back memories of how I experienced New York in the days after September 11, 2001. It happened on a Tuesday. I was deep into preparations for my most ambitious environmental work, an art installation at Queens Botanical Garden. I needed to buy more fabric in a place close to the World Trade Center. Everyone, everywhere talked about how to give support to those living close to the site, children who had seen it happen and had to evacuate schools. Hard to stay centered around my own concerns--important to me, small in the big picture.
The show was meant to celebrate a better day for the enviroment in New York City. Fresh Kills on Staten Island, where the City's garbage had been dumped for over forty years, had been closed to create a cleaner environment for families who lived there. But shortly after 9/11 the City announced that the remains of victims of the terrorist attacks would temporarily go to Fresh Kills. After a few days, it was decided that the show could open as planned--with a shifted focus. The Garden's Director correctly sensed that the public gardens would offer respite for many.
Downtown, most of the streets near the World Trade Center were blocked off. Canal Street where I wanted to go was one of them. Smoke from the Towers still filled the air when we could get near the store; in the upper lefthand corner a pigeon flies. We watched Sanitation and Army trucks passed by over and over again. Young NYPD officer man let us past the barrier to the store on the other side.
What did we learn from 9/11 that will support us now? The two brothers bombers have been identified. One is dead, the other badly wounded. The negative chatter has begun again about Muslims. How do we reassure our families? Do we ignore what has happened, or bring out the flags. Oppressively flagged after 9/11--what we really needed was leadership to help us examine our values and prepare for how those awful events might change our world. But Rudy Guiliani, New York's Mayor then, and George W. Bush were too limited for that sort of thinking. Their urge to DO SOMETHING only led in the opposite direction. Two wars.
Earlier this week, I wrote this post's headline. As if reading my mind--and so many of us--David SarasohnI the Sunday Oregonian writes a commentary, Watching Boston and waiting for Portland's time."
We could have been Boston. For Portland, of course, that has two meanings. There's our creation myth about Francis Pettygrove from Maine, winning a coin flip with Asa Lovejoy of Massachusetts, who wanted to name [us] after his hometown of Boston.
Then there's the more immediate reality that Portland or any city in the country--could at any instant find itself...Boston...its street running with blood and its emergency rooms swamped with casualties.
He talks with Martin Schrelber, a trauma surgeon, at Oregon Health & Science University, the state's health and research institution. Its many buildings stand up the hill from where I live. Dr. Schrelber is very direct, "Our reality is not if it is going to happen [here] but when." He says OHSU has a plan, along with the city's other trauma hospital. That plan is rehearsed every six months. For details, see Sarasohn's article.
Am I reassured? Not at all. While impressed with the doctor's dedication to emergency preparedness and his difficult work, it is a different plan I seek.