A tree fell yesterday. Several of them, in fact. And three people died within a four minute walk of my house.
I never heard a thing.
A Cessna 182 crashed almost in my backyard, on the ridge just behind me, and I cannot get my head around the fact that I didn’t mark the moment when the hundred foot oaks splintered, their arms catching the crippled plane, tearing it to pieces. Somehow I missed the clamor of mutual destruction within sprinting distance of my own driveway. I was home when it happened. The Civil Air Patrolman told me what he was allowed to, so I know when and I know where, although I haven’t seen the site.
It may have been when I was in the shower or on the telephone. The windows were even open. I drove on to my lunch appointment, past the ambulances and Channel 13’s big satellite-feed truck, wondering what all the fuss was about; knowing that something significant must have happened. But the roofers kept hammering away on the house they’re building across the street, so I didn’t imagine it could be that bad. I had heard their industry all day, as I have heard it in the background every day for as long as I’ve lived here. Only Sundays and the rain keeps them from their work, and then all I hear is the variant sighs and patters of wind and raindrops, or a rushing gutter gurgle if it’s a quality downpour. Sundays seem unnaturally quiet.
I don’t feel guilty, exactly. There was no assistance I could have offered and I would have likely just been in the way if I’d walked over to spectate. It’s only sitting here in the heat trail of disaster that I can’t decide what to think. Three people ended, their last moments awash in terror, just above my head. And by the ripple effect, dozens are wrangling the stages of grief somewhere in Georgia today.
I know it’s this way all the time. The people I pass, they feel things, and I push through their auras of elation, anxiety, boredom, preoccupation. I rinse the clinging bits of telepathic cobwebs down the drain each day. But I do care.
It’s not that I want to share their burdens. I’m not that generous or that useful. I’d simply like them to know, all those colorful blurs at the periphery of my vision, that I can’t feel them. I’m cocooned in my own swirl of distractions and wishes. My longings and disappointments elbow past the hopes and satisfactions in the queue for my attention.
I don’t know what those others want or worry about, but I know that they do. And if I could, in the psychic dander I shed over their coat sleeves as I hurry by, I’d leave gossamer threads of acknowledgement, dustings of good will.
I didn’t hear you crash or die, just as I can’t hear your loved ones ache and cry, but I know that you were here and you stopped me in my tracks. The tree fell and no one heard it, but it most definitely made a sound.