New York and Sri Lanka

It is Sunday morning, and Mom, Dad, Jack, Ol, and I are on our way to the 9/11 museum and memorial. I lived in NY on 9/11 but have not visited the site since I moved two years later.

We are still in Brooklyn, it’s a beautiful morning, we are all happy and have had such a fun weekend. I sit with the horrific news from Sri Lanka, and suddenly it really sinks in. I have friends living there, a mother and son the boys and I know from school. She is Sri Lankan and they took a leave of absence to move to the country for two years to be with extended family, to travel, to let the boy, now a fifth grader, study in and experience a new place and school.

I message the mom: Just checking in. Are you and your family ok?

What are the odds, I think, and I turn my attention back to my family and the museum.

The incredibly thoughtful designers and curators of the tribute to 9/11 couldn’t have done a finer job. It is a weighty, moving place of course, my eyes prick with tears many times, but I never feel destroyed or frantic to leave. To an individual, the staff and volunteers are thoroughly trained, passionate, and kind. Please, if you feel overwhelmed, there are tissue kiosks and seats all around. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if we can help.

The boys take it all in, brave and respectful. And we talk about terrorism and hate but also the antidotes of love and tolerance. We talk about the lives that were horrifically taken and also the beautiful way New York came together afterwards. We talk about community and tending the ones we are part of. We talk about condemning hate and hateful actions but also about the importance of not judging groups by the behavior of the extremists within them.

After, I note that I’ve not heard back from my friend. This is odd. But it’s Easter, and I put the niggling aside to laugh with my boys and parents, to pack us up, to say goodbye.

We board the bus home and three hours in I hear the news: the boy has been killed in Colombo. The mother and grandmother are in the hospital but will be ok. They had been at breakfast together.

I gasp, and without thinking turn to the boys and tell them the horrific news. What?!

We cannot make sense of this. Jack had played chess with this boy and borrowed his hiking pants. He was a radiant, kind child of such intelligence. He was to return to DC in just weeks.

Our community is wrecked for the loss this mother has sustained. For the loss we feel, too.

Yesterday, as I drove Jack home from school, he, in uncharacteristic emotionality, said, “Mom, I don’t understand this evil. The world is shit right now.” He looked so distraught and baffled. I couldn’t disagree, but I am 43 and he is 12, and I desperately wish the world was a better place to grow up in because death and a deep awareness of the world’s ugliness and many failures is a lot to hold when you’re not even a teenager.

Please be the good. Be generous and kind and tolerant. Please offer to lend a hand, to give a hug. Please value fact and truth and honesty and character. Please fight fanaticism in every way you can, including the very real white conservative extremism, so often religiously-rooted, that harms us here in the States. Please honor this dear boy and all the others whose lives end entirely too soon. Please keep his mother in your heart and your thoughts. She needs a deep bench of love and support right now and for a long time to come. Many do.