It’s 12:06 p.m.—the phone buzzes. I answer and immediately sit up straighter as I note the tone in my husband’s voice. “Hello, Lil?” “Yep, I’m here,” I respond. I hear the chaos in the background. “There’s been an explosion at the mill. I want you to know I’m okay.” All I remember next is “digester” “I’ll call you back.” Then silence. I struggle to breathe. In an instant, I propel into the cast of a movie of which I want no part. Twenty minutes pass as I sit in the bottomless well of my thoughts. I call the kids, so they will know what I know, not sensationalized, second-hand information.

A video posts on YouTube showing catastrophic decimation of my husband’s home-away-from-home. PTSD symptoms come flooding back as I recall the Farmington explosion seven months previously. I begin shaking. Immediately I revert to slow, shallow breathing and praying.

Forty minutes pass. Still no call. Okay, well, in silence, there is hope. Fifty minutes more and I get a message from a friend who is a first responder. There are no injuries or deaths, and Mark is okay. I relax and sink into the arms of my chair. During this time of coronavirus self-isolation, these are the only arms available. I am calm, ready for anything.

Several hours later, my husband arrives home. His body vibrates with aftershocks. “I’m okay. “I’m okay,” he says. As much for his benefit as mine.

We debrief. We talk about miracles. Silence accompanies the rhythm of our pacing, sitting, rocking, pacing, sitting, rocking.

Dinner time. I’m not hungry. I eat a few bites to quell the gnarled ball of belly pain. I haven’t eaten since my breakfast of coffee. I watch my husband eat a cheese stick. Uncharacteristically, he devours it hungrily and mightily as if to devour his feelings before they devour him. Next he leans forward over his burger, making each bite deliberate, as though each represents something unfamiliar and unseen, needing to be destroyed.

Here in our community, even as Stephen King makes a mockery of our community’s loss, we begin to grieve.

In our aloneness, we grieve loss of jobs, identity, extended work-family, memories, and security; state-wide and local economic impact; and environmental impact. Amid this grief, we celebrate births and grieve deaths. Coronavirus self-isolation policy complicates our grieving. We’re supporting each other with food and messages. Without hesitation, local businesses such as Riverside Kwik Stop, Yianni’s House of Pizza, and My Dad’s Place served up copious amounts of food during the explosion and now after. Food is comfort, an expression of gratitude, and an equalizer. “Joy shared is joy increased. Grief shared is grief diminished” (Chinese Proverb)

We will dig in. We’ll survive and thrive. We know our story even if it’s not newsworthy. We are aware of struggles ahead. We’ll show the world that the explosion was a moment, and today is another moment. And until we run out of moments, we will not give up nor give up on each other.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: