It seems hard to return to normal life after such a sad event in Boston. I don't know what it's like to lose someone that way. But I know what it's like to fear it for just a second. And because I can think of no other words, this is what I wrote in my notebook on 2-20-13:
Last night I turned on the news to catch the weather. They're predicting 5-9" of snow for us. If it swings south we'll get more. Way more. They were showing one of their "sky cams" over the Kansas City Plaza and a column of black smoke was drawing a line up into the sky. They were reporting a fire. But as they sent reporters and their news chopper, they said it was actually an explosion.
Witnesses said the roof of JJ's - a popular restaurant - blew off about 100 feet in the air. The ground shook like a horrible earthquake. In nearby apartment buildings, doors were blown off hinges and windows shattered. They skipped coverage of the storm, coverage of everything and instead kept the view tuned to the flames leaping up 100 feet - maybe 200 - into the sky. They talked to witnesses who said they'd smelled gas and called authorities. They showed a full view of the building that had once been there now totally gone. They said extra workers had been called in to St. Francis and KU Med. Ambulances lined up along the sidewalk with clean white stretchers. Waiting.
My brother lives on the Kansas City Plaza.
I texted him: Excitement in your neighborhood.
I imagined him standing on his balcony, snapping pictures, tweeting them with the hashtag #plazafire.
Three minutes passed.
I started to wonder if he'd walked down to dinner as he often does. Does he even eat at JJ's?
I texted again: Just tell me your'e in a safe spot.
My brother is hooked up. He always has his phone at the ready, is always texting, IMing, reading headlines, fact-checking. He always answers. Always calls back. Always checks in.
After 30 minutes without a reply, I started thinking, why wouldn't he go down to JJ's? Why wouldn't anyone? Why hadn't I? Suddenly JJ's and that gaping black wound being licked by flames seemed like the only logical place for everyone on the planet to be.
After 45 minutes, I called my mom. "Are you watching the news?"
"Maybe you should turn it on."
They hadn't heard from him. And I still hadn't.
I called his cell phone - went straight to voice mail. Which meant he'd turned off his phone or he'd...
I called his landline.
An hour passed.
Should I ask one of his friends? Is he supposed to be out of town? He travels a lot.
Half an hour more passed. The news reported that there was a fatality.
I called my parents again and said to my mom, "At what point do I worry? Are you worried?"
She's practical. She never likes to "borrow trouble." She just said, "I can't do anything about it. Whatever has happened has happened. All I can do is wait."
I tried playing Words with Friends.
Two hours passed. I didn't really feel like eating.
A little over two hours later, I finally get the text: I'm fine. I'm in Minneapolis. What's going on?
By now it was on CNN and ABC News, and he was taxiing down a runway wondering why his phone was lit up with texts and missed calls. He'd heard not one word of the explosion in his neighborhood.
And all of a sudden I thought, of course of all of the places in the world, why would he be at JJ's? It seemed absurd now and I was almost embarrassed for my worry. But for a moment, I tasted that fear: Where is he?
The posts on Facebook - prayers and thoughts to those affected by the Plaza fire - seemed directed at me. Could they apply to me? I wondered as I watched new posts popping up. I glanced at the date - February 19. Would it be significant from now on? I ran the gamut from It will be OK to I can't do this to the childish But I wanted a fun snow day to the I don't want his money, I don't even ever want to outlive him.
It's true that I have an active imagination.
It's true that I write scripts and stories and conflicts.
It's true that I always wonder, What if? and am sometimes wounded by my own imagination. But today seems a little bit sweeter because of it. And because I have considered what I might have lost.
I'm so sorry for those who never had their texts answered. I'm so thankful that friends we know there are safe today. My heart is broken for those people who are not.