A NOTE: I do not intend for this blog to be overly personal, but it is a place where I express myself through writing. That said, these kinds of posts will be few and far between (hopefully).
Yesterday, I discovered the secret of both time travel and teleportation. These problems, long fodder for science fiction writers and more recently very real conundrums for physicists, would seem insurmountable for a guy with a bachelor’s degree in English literature (regardless of how many Arthur C. Clarke stories I have read) but I nonetheless learned how to traverse both time and space in the blink of an eye. What’s more, you need neither a Large Hadron Collider nor a vessel moving at Warp speed while skirting the event horizon of a Sun sized star. All you really need is helplessness and terror.
It happened suddenly yet nearly imperceptibly. One moment, I was on a construction site at the harbor, waiting for the contractors to call on us for survey. The next moment, I was miles away and nine months in the past, in the parking lot of Sandy Hook Elementary School waiting for my children to come out alive.
When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, I suffered something of an existential crisis. Somehow between December 14 and Boston, I had managed to “forgive” the universe for being so cruel, for allowing such evil to flourish, so the bombing hit me very hard, especially the news of the death of a child. I was thrown for a loop, enraged and wounded and in shock. What I was not, though, was transported back to Sandy Hook.
The Washington Navy Yard was different. That event did send me hurtling through time and space. It was not just that it was a deranged gunman on a murderous rampage in what should have otherwise been a safe and secure institutional facility — though now that I think of it, i realize how alike the incidents are in that way. No, the Einstein-Rosen bridge was my brother. Just like in Sandy Hook, I was waiting to find out if my family would survive a madman’s killing spree. Technically, I knew he was safe but I could not yet believe it.
At about 10 that morning I received a text message from my sister in law telling myself and a number of others in a group message that my brother was okay. I know my brother travels a lot for his work as a Navy contractor (he was an officer for 20 years and recently retired) so I responded with, “Where is he?” Almost at that moment, before she could respond, it hit the top of the hour and the radio station went to the news. It said there was a mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.
It is a fairly common cliche in prose to describe thoughts “falling into place.” It is an ugly and generally ill-fitting metaphor that says far more about the author’s craft than it does about the experience of the character in the narrative. yet, here I am, trying to express how the realization came upon me and all I can imagine is pieces falling into place like a slow motion, horrific game of Tetris. My brother, Navy yard. Shooter. Okay. The blocks turned and fell and when they came together they disappeared and in the void was this reality: for the second time in less than a year, a gun was pointed at my family and I was helpless to do anything but wait.
I called my sister in law immediately. She had been able to speak with my brother. He was in lockdown. No one knew where the shooter was, or even how many there were. He was as “safe” as long as someone did not shoot their way into his location. I offered her what comfort I could. I told her I loved her.
Hanging up the phone was, I think, the Big Red Button on the quad-dimensional-trans-locationator. In a blink I was in the purgatory of an uncertainty that it indescribable to anyone who has not felt it, a dread so pure it redefines you, not just then, but forever. I was acutely aware that I was surrounded by construction workers and engineers and municipal bureaucrats and that I alone was feeling this. Worse still, at least in the Sandy Hook parking lot, I was able to focus on helping my wife through her own fear and holding her up. There was no one else to hold up then, and no one to hold me up. All I had was a determination to keep my shit together, if for no other reason that the last people you want to see you cry are construction workers.
Relief came slowly as news trickled in and my wife held me up through my phone. I was drawn in tiny steps back to the time and place from which I had been transported as it became increasingly clear that my brother was, in fact, safe. It was a long 12 hours before he was finally home with my sister in law and I was able to speak with him, at which point the wormhole closed and I was free to live in the here and now again.