Years ago in Taiwan, I was riding on a motorcycle with my brother, Dana. As we flew over a railroad track, the back tire of the motorcycle exploded, and when we landed, we crashed.
I – having already gone through a horrific car accident when I was little and had PTSD – blacked out before we even landed. I have no memory of anything after we went over the railroad track.
Dana, however, was careful to land in a way that would cause the least injury to himself, then after checking me, he had the presence of mind to check for my hearing aids. One had been knocked out of my ear – he found it and put it in his pocket before he lifted me up and flagged a passerby to take us to the hospital.
It goes to show that you never know how someone is going to be in an emergency situation until there is an emergency situation, right?
You never know who will pass out in fear, and who will check for missing hearing aids. You don’t know who will spring into action and be busy and who will get on their knees and pray.
And here is another important thing: you never know how what has happened to someone will affect their actions in an emergency situation. I passed out on the motorcycle because my brain simply couldn’t handle another accident and preferred to be unconscious. I had already been through too much; I couldn’t do it again and refused to participate.
The Missile Alert
The missile alert came in the morning.
I lost my Dad 9 years ago. I lost two of my grandparents the same year, and I lost my other two in 2016. I lost two babies. I lost my husband last year, from divorce, and I lost people from his family that I had loved.
I lost Dana.
In all this loss, unspeakable loss, my heart has been holding my children and my mother tight: that is, all the people that I have not lost.
I hold them tight, ever dear, and I know how much I treasure them.
When this came in, I blinked.
My mom came in and was rushed, Micah was freaking out a bit. We checked the news first and couldn’t find anything except old articles online about the threat of nuclear war. We finally figured out how to turn on the TV (thanks, Netflix for conditioning us out of the live stuff!) and after a brief mention of the warning, there was nothing. No ticker alert, no news updates, absolutely nothing.
So, I looked around.
We were in my mom’s place, which is half built in the earth and half out. Kind of like a hobbit house. On a hillside, facing east, with a view of flowers and lush green, a sliver of ocean. It being my mom’s place, it’s fully stocked with non-perishables and medicine. I thought, well, we’ll all go together, and it’s not a bad place to be.
Niggling at the back of my mind was the concern that should one of the kids survive without me, what would they do? How would they deal? Mental images of the drawings I had seen at the Atomic Bomb museum in Hiroshima, Japan, flitted through my mind’s eye and made me scared for the first time, but… I took a deep breath.
Checked the news again. Nothing. Checked the internets. Nothing.
Figured that it couldn’t be real.
And knew that if it was, we’d be okay because we were all together – either we’d all die together or we’d live together and either way, we’d be okay.
Then we got the alert that it was a mistake, it had been an error, just a teensy little mistake that had allowed us to think through our lives and see what kind of people we would be in the case of an emergency, what we’d pack if we had to, what we’d think of and pray for… or not. Just a tiny slip of the finger that pressed the wrong button that let us do a swift recounting and summation of our lives and reckoning of what was important.
We got to see if we were the type who would land carefully and check for missing hearing aids… or the type who would pass out.
And I learned that since I’ve already lost everyone in my world except for who was in the room at the time (with the exception of Dana’s kids, whom I knew were safe and would be fine), I was past the point of a freak-out, past the point of worrying, running around, hyperventilating, past the point of even passing out.