Wednesday, June 03, 2009

In Memoriam

I was going to write about middle schools this week, about the thrill of talking to three hundred students about writing; about how fun it is to involve them in my writers workshop and see them engaged and entertained.

About Book Expo and all the fun and excitement of hanging with Dave (Barry) for a jam-packed day where I signed my name over a thousand times. And then 228 people fell out of the sky. It's strange, a number like that. I lost my dad last year -- one person. One. And I still feel half-sick on plenty of days.

Two hundred twenty-eight souls on board. We grow too accustomed to these numbers. Iraq. Afghanistan. Layoffs. Unemployment. But falling from the sky into the ocean? Can we wrap our minds around that instant of loss, about the echoes through all the families, all the lives that connect? It must be in the many of thousands.

I don't have any brilliant point to make. This loss has not made me any wiser or more sensitive or enlightened. It's just that: loss. But to write about anything else feels plain wrong when visions of dad dance in my head. He died of old age at 90 having lived an enormously full life. He fell up into the sky, not the other way around. But I miss him and think about him all the time. I'm still grieving over his loss nearly 18 months later. Maybe for 18 years to come. I wouldn't know. I lost a close friend, John Crispell, to a drunk driver when I was 14 and he was younger. Too young. It happened on his birthday, of all days.

What John doesn't know is that I've never gotten over that loss. It turned a happy-go-lucky young suburban kid serious, and though I have plenty of laughs, so I remain. I don't wish that on any of the relatives of the 228. I wish that somehow, instead, they could see my father's eyebrows arching as I played music for him after he'd lost the ability to open his eyes or acknowledge those of us gathered around him. Those dancing eyebrows telling me he was there, inside, somewhere. It's those eyebrows I remember so well: they seemed to be saying, "I'm right here. I haven't gone anywhere." And I took them to mean, "I'll always be with you." And he was right.

God bless the 228 and their kin. May their eyebrows be remembered as dancing.

NAKED SCRIBBLERS' FOOTNOTE: We wanted you to know that Ridley went to extreme measures to post today. As you may have read in The New York Times, China has erected a "Great Firewall" cutting off access to blogs and Twitter and satellite news....all in anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Or, as the Chinese government puts it, "You're lucky our tank ran out of gas." To post today, Ridley sent smoke signals, semaphores, and the Orient Express. We appreciate it.


  1. I've been thinking about the Air France tragedy since I first saw it on the web. It was like going back to the early days of commercial passenger flight, when it seemed as if a plane fell out of the sky every month. And each day it becomes more suspicious - or perhaps that's because there is no real news there, nothing that anyone can really say about it, except that over two hundred men, women and children are gone and - as you say - the families are grieving.

    If you read the brilliant feature by William Langewiesche in Vanity fair this month, you'll know the Airbus 320 is one of the safest airplanes ever to fly and was the unsung hero of the landing on the Hudson in January. But the Air France jet hit the perfect storm - weather, a drug-dealer's aircraft, an explosive device, catastrophic mechanical failure - whatever it was, it's a tragedy beyond measure.

  2. Oh Ridley...always the profound post. I lost my Dad 18 years ago (May 21) and at times, my heart hurts so much I can hardly bare it. But, those times have become more infrequent over the years. Eighteen months is not long in the grieving process.
    I can hardly imagine what those 228people suffered in their last moments, and the pain their families must endure conjuring the same scenario.
    May God(dess) Bless them all.

  3. "I hope he wasn't frightened," is what the wife of one passenger said.
    I hope they didn't suffer!
    Those 228 people, though to us they are nameless, will never be forgotten. Just like those from Lockerbie, Amsterdam or the fatefull Concorde flight, to name but a few.

    My father died in 1993, my mother in 2001. They were the most wonderful, gentle, hardworking, funny people. I still grieve for them to this day. I have a picture of them, taken on my wedding day, right next to my computer. They're smiling at me for ever........


  4. Several years ago, while on a flight from from Iguazu Falls to Rio, the plane experienced extreme turbulence duirng a frightful storm. The pilot tried to land but couldn't. I seriously thought it was the end. I haven't been able to get that incident out of my mind.