Monday, September 12, 2011
This I Remember
When I was a senior in high school I was in this amazing class that truly changed my life. It was an English class. We would read poetry or stories or novels and then write response papers for the next class. Then the 7 of us would sit in a circle of desks with our teacher who was this incredibly crazy, but brilliant bald man by the name of John Vincent Young, and we'd discuss our ideas and thoughts and feelings about a certain piece.
But, though that did a great deal to improve my writing and my appreciation for the written word, this wasn't how the class changed my life. No, what changed me was the giant boy with long curly hair that was so dark it was bordering on black who was a poet and a romantic to the truest extent. His name was Jacob Zuniga. And without ever really intending to, we became best friends.
It still amazes me.
Zuni was one of the most popular boys in our school. Formerly a football player until a knee injury made further play impossible, he knew everyone and everyone loved him. He was a born story teller and comic, and he could make anyone feel important. His girlfriend once used a quote from "The Big Lebowski" to explain him, he like "that rug really pulled the room together." Odd as that may seem, that's probably the best way to describe him that I have ever heard.
I miss him every day.
Today is September 11, 2011. And I remember what happened 10 years ago. I won't ever be able to forget it. I was 15. I was a sophomore in high school. I was in first period algebra with Mr. Rolondo when the first plane struck. We were watching coverage on the news when the 2nd plane struck. I saw it happen. Those images never go away. I remember the questions and the crying, and I remember, very distinctly wondering if this meant we were going to war and what that would mean. I remember wondering if the guys surrounding me would be going to war, and even worse, if my brothers, my best friends, and the boy I was sure I wanted to marry (I was 15, remember) would go to war too.
And we did go to war. We're still at war. Sometimes I wonder if this war is in competition with Vietnam to see who can be drug out longest without any kind of satisfying conclusion. And many of my friends have gone to war. A friend of mine just finally got out of the air force after being in for 6 years. I hate this war. I hate knowing about the things my friends have seen or gone through trying to protect the United States. And I hate knowing that people are dying for this thing all the time. Innocent people, good people, bad people, poor people, rich people, children and adults. All kinds. People are dying. 10 years of this. Is this worth it?
All I know is that I remember.
But what I want to remember is the good. What I try to remember is the way this amazing country pulled together. How we donated blood and clothes and food and time and energy to help people rebuild. How we searched the wreckage for survivors and cheered when they were found. How we mourned together over the dead, those we knew and those we didn't. How we supported the men and women who serve in the armed forces, even if we didn't believe in war.
We have gone through so much as a country in 10 years. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, plane crashes, blizzards, landslides, and so many disasters, but if we learned anything from tragedy it is this: we will survive and we will take care of each other. The love I see in this nation is overwhelming. We are learning to take care of each other a little better all the time, and I find hope in that.
Beyond all of these memories, this day reminds me very much of all the people that I have lost in the past 10 years. A best friend, a girl who might as well have been my little sister, several classmates, 2 kids who were best friends with my youngest brothers, several great aunts, a boy who I had taught in youth group, and several very beloved elderly church members.
Zuni is what I remember and think of most. I ran across something he wrote for me just a month and a half before he died. My best friend was a genius, especially when it came to matters of the heart, and this particular letter was no less a gem. I ran across it again this evening when going through some old papers, and it made me miss him so much my heart about burst.
So as a parting thought, something good to remember, something that my brilliant, amazing, wonderful best friend once said to me that I hope will do you as much good as it does me:
"In closing thoughts, love is blind. We don't choose who we love, or who loves us back. It's something we can't explain. When you're away from your love, you start thinking about it. You sit back and wonder what the hell it is that makes you work, that attracts you to them, and although you have a few ideas, it's nothing solid. You've bunches of friends with the same qualities. What makes them so special? You sit and you wonder, but it's all in vain, for when they're back and in your arms, you know. What, I'm not sure, but you know that this is right and that you were wrong for questioning it. I guess that's true love, above all else: having faith. Right now, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm living for my weekend binge, for those few choice hours when I'm there and she's there and something as old as the sun but as new as our lives is there enslaving us. I know that I die every time I see her because I know I have to say goodbye. I know that I die every time I hug her, every time I kiss her, every time I look into her eyes and see myself. I know that sometimes I don't remember what I've done during the day because all I've done is think about her. I know that she's the last thing in my mind at night and the first when I rise. She literally is the girl of my dreams; she visits every night. I've sat on the sidelines and wondered why her, why this, and I should never have done that, for when I see her, when I talk to her on the phone or read her e-mails, I know. I can feel it in my heart and in my mind, and I know this: this is real.
Have faith in yourself and your love. Know that no matter what happens, you will be together again. There is no end if it is real, no stop and start. You'll become so entangled that you won't be singular anymore, won't be alone. There will come a time when the roots of two trees will connect underground and form a vast village of matter, until there no longer are two trees, but one singular unit living via the other. That's love, or at least, that's the best way I can describe it."
This I remember.