Saturday, October 17, 2009

Twenty Years Ago

One of the interesting things about keeping a journal is that you can look back on what you were doing in the past, and as you reread your own words, you can usually remember exactly what you were thinking and feeling at the time.

And then you can also reflect on how everything has changed since then.

Today’s post has nothing to do with the here and now. It has everything to do with where I was—and where we all were—twenty years ago today, October 17, 1989. I had just moved to Phoenix for grad school, and I’d recently bought my first television set.

This is transcribed from my journal.

Wed. Oct. 18, 1989
12:51 a.m.


I’ve been watching the news for the past 3 hours, and my head is spinning. Images twirl around thoughts. Things I’ve seen; crunched cars, huge areas on fire, huge long stretches of highway, one level smashed onto another, the videotape of the car driving on a bridge, then disappearing, dropping down into a huge hole in the road. The pickup behind it braked, put on its backup lights, and backed up.

And they said one of the people who’d been pulled from his car—a Nissan Sentra that’d been sandwiched between two layers of highway—the dude had survived. His car was no higher than 18 inches. And he was relatively unharmed.

And another guy said his house was basically upside-down.

All of this boggles my mind . . . how within a few minutes, so much could happen. What went through everyone’s mind? What was it really like to see light poles “thrashing around”?

. . . Yeah, I’ll bet you saw all those news images of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, too. I think all of America was glued to CNN that night.

It’s funny how you can look back on something like that—some famous event in a place that you didn’t directly experience at the time—but with which you eventually become somehow connected. I mean, I had never been to the Bay Area when I wrote that journal entry, and had no plans to go there. I had absolutely no idea I’d be living in San Francisco within the next year, that I would drive over that repaired spot in the Bay Bridge where the car had tumbled in, and that I would form personalized connections with San Francisco that endure to this day.

It’s just funny how life turns out. I’m always amazed by it.


Anonymous said...

Too often we feel insulated/removed from trauma. It's staggering to me how many people have experienced the fear of it directly and carry that anxiety around every day in a way that those around them would never see. Too bad it's not acceptable to show those emotions for what they are.

Julie said...

Thank you for your comment.

I think that it's amazing how individuals and their communities do heal and move on. Yet when I think of the staggering traumas that humans endure the world over, it doesn't completely surprise me that their wounds heal (or at least, "heal over") . . .

What *surprises* me is how so many in our culture seek out and "enjoy" movies and other virtual media that deliver intensely traumatic experiences vicariously. I don't get that at all.

But of course--my advice to anyone who senses they're carrying around posttraumatic anxiety and fear is to seek the help of a licensed counselor. It's their job to help us come to terms with underlying emotions that feel "not acceptable."