A Harsh Annual Reminder

For the last eight years I’ve largely ignored this anniversary. Generally passing by with the casual nod of the head out of respect to those we lost and to those friends of mine who were also there. But today is the eight year anniversary of the eight students/friends that died in my high school during a tornado on March 1, 2007. Merely eight years in time I find myself light years away from those days. Maybe it’s how much I’ve ostracized myself from that community, or the fact that I only interact with a select few people from my hometown, but I sometimes feel I live in an entirely different world outside of my old life in Enterprise, AL. Today, it’s always vivid, and I can find myself standing on East Watts street. The overturned cars and downed power lines come first and the sounds of the sirens and helicopters fill my ears. Parents are wandering the school grounds calling out frantically for their children. Inversely, children are scrambling over rubble, dusty and wet casting wails for Moms and Dads. In between the chaos families are reunited with cries of joy to find each other, to hug each other. In my memory I find myself separate from the crisis, standing calmly in the street spinning slowly and watching the chaos unfold around me.

Appreciation. Today, amidst my more adult mind, and my more adult perception of the world I’m appreciative of the tragedy. I’m not appreciative of the devastation it caused or the deaths we all mourned, but I’m thankful for what I learned from it and even more appreciative of where I find myself today. A tragedy lives forever a tragedy if you don’t learn something from it.

I knew seven of the eight kids that died in the tornado but could only consider a few of them friends. My loss is not as profound as those who were closer to them but a loss nonetheless. The most cliche lesson can be learned from such a sudden loss of young life, and that is how precious it is. There are thousands of people and articles and writers out there who write about the sanctity of our short lives, it’s nothing new. I can’t say that I would’ve lived my life differently had the tornado never happened because I’ve always lived the by the horns approach but I have seen those who live unaffected. Traipsing through life in the “I wish” but how could one always wish for excitement when they’ve seen the greater consequence so clearly.

I’m currently laying on a rocky beach in the Argentinian Steppe on the banks of the Chubut River. I’m doing exactly what makes me happy. I’m living exactly as my heart desires. I’m not wishing for more Im not longing for excitement I exist firmly in the clutches of contentment.

On this eight year anniversary of eight young lives lost and a city forever scarred, I hope that my fellow 3107-ers who also suffered eight years ago are just as content with their lives as I am. Because today is an annual reminder that today could be your last. Today my heart goes out to all those who lost a part of themselves that day and to those who suffered and may continue suffer in the aftermath.

Here is a link to a cheesy video with a cheesy soundtrack but the pictures are all real.