A week ago at 5:30 in the morning, my husband and I were driving through the low mountains of western Massachusetts headed for New York. The black of night gave way to the purples and indigo of early morning. Bright-eyed foxes were surprised by our headlights.
We listened to the radio. I tuned into Fox Business on Sirius XM to get the latest headlines. They were grim. In Las Vegas, the death toll was mounting. Horror. Again.
“This is not what I expected we’d be listening to,” my husband said.
The Taconic Parkway rolled in front of us, gray fog still hugging blue hills, but what we saw in our minds’ eye was fresh blood smeared on the t-shirts of frantic survivors. We heard the stunned voices of those who had fled the concert; they sounded empty, exhausted. Soon, we would see the actual video, and the bodies dropping on black pavement. In those pictures, police scrambled for cover and a way to stop the massacre that would eventually claim 59 lives.
We still support each other in this country. And, people are still generous and eager to extend to a helping hand.
And, the old questions came back. Why this violence again? Where does it come from? How do we stop it?
I got to work that morning and went about my business. Then, an email from my husband. He said a woman named Maria left a message on our home phone line. She’d found my iPad, which I had inadvertently left at the commuter train station. My worry about my personal data seemed inconsequential compared to the Las Vegas tragedy. I had nearly forgotten it amid the bad news. But I revived at the message the iPad had been found and called Maria to make plans to pick it up that night. Our conversation was abbreviated. She had an Eastern European accent that was difficult for me to understand by telephone.
I drove up to her home which is not too far from mine, stopping first to pick up a bouquet to give her. I felt I should respond to her kindness with my own. A petite Maria answered the door and invited me in. The house was neat as a pin. A daughter sat in the kitchen, consumed by homework. It feels so normal, I remember thinking.
Maria handed me the iPad and overcome with gratitude I gave her a hug and told her not everyone would have done the same thing. “It’s the way my parents raised me, she said. I replied, “It’s good to remember that this week, in particular.”
I moved for the door to leave but Maria stopped me. “I don’t watch TV,” she said. “I looked you up. I’m sorry for your trouble.” By that, she meant the breast cancer I have been successfully fighting for the past year and a half. I hugged her again, this woman I never even knew ten minutes before. And, then, her eyes filled with tears. “My husband died of cancer,” she said. And then we were both crying and before I left we hugged a third time.
I am relieved and so grateful to have met Maria and visited her at her home. That experience, not the Las Vegas killings, is the new normal and the old normal. We still support each other in this country. And, people are still generous and eager to extend to a helping hand. Thank you, Maria, for reminding me of that.