Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Magical Thinking

Sometimes when I am listening to music on iTunes, I see a song coming up whose "Last Played" date is 1/12/10. I usually hit Refresh when that happens. (If you don't use iTunes, when you use the DJ function, you get songs randomly, and if you hit Refresh, you get a new list from your music library.) I know it's irrational, but somehow I don't want to listen to those songs. There's one coming up right now that I last listened to at 3:53 that afternoon, as I was working in my classroom. About an hour before the earth shook. It feels as though that was a time when everything was all right.

What kind of magical thinking am I engaging in? Do I want to believe that if I just save that music and don't listen to it again, the earthquake didn't happen? I know it happened; I saw it, I felt it.

This morning I watched the rest of the Frontline documentary on Haiti (see the last post for a link); I started it last night but realized I wouldn't sleep if I watched it all right before going to bed. I already knew about everything on the program, but I hadn't seen the piles of bodies in the street. In those first days I stayed home with my children, because I couldn't bear to have them out of my sight and I didn't want them to see what was out there. O. went out to buy vegetables the day after the quake, and when she got back she said she had to go take a bath, because there was blood running in the streets. My husband cried when he described it to me. But I hadn't seen it with my own eyes; when I first arrived in the States I watched no footage at all.

There were piles of bodies. Each one belonged to a human being, someone who was born into the difficult world of Haiti and survived and lived, someone who loved and was loved. They had flies on them; they were piled like firewood. I read an article yesterday about people working on finding and identifying all the bodies of US citizens who died in the earthquake. But while the US citizens were handled with care and DNA tested and treated with respect,

Looney says there was often no way of distinguishing Americans from Haitians, so each body would be dug up at a site. "The number of Haitians far exceeded the number of Americans recovered," says Looney. "We would hand them over to the Port-au-Prince morgue" — a morgue he described as a "hellhole" with hundreds of bodies stacked on top of one another. "They didn't even use rubber gloves to handle the bodies until we gave them some," says Looney. The Americans found the bodies they had turned over to the Haitians lying in the same overcrowded morgue weeks later.

Many bodies were dumped in mass graves at Titayen. My friend John McHoul blogged (in a post I now can't find) about how people heard cell phones ringing in a mass grave and dug them up, so that a frantic wife calling her husband's phone reached someone who said yes, he had found the phone in Titayen. That's how she knew her husband was dead.

Why must Haitians suffer so much?

Maybe if I don't listen to the song I was listening to when I was working my classroom that afternoon, all of that will not be true? Maybe I can just imagine it away? Maybe all those perhaps 300,000 (the president's estimate) who died will be back?

Of course not. What a ridiculous idea. And yet I just hit Refresh.

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