Tragedy Mangles Your Memories

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 22 2012 @ 5:04pm

Onnesha Roychoudhuri contemplates that idea in the context of Newtown:

Sandy Hook: The school’s baseball field where I first learned how to hit a ball and mean it. Where my brother had his tenth birthday party and I wore a pair of pink shorts printed with gray kittens. Where the outsized, green footprints of our mascot, the Green Giant, formed a path to the entrance of the school. Where my mother taught off and on. Where I wrote a sequel to The Hobbit for Mrs. Toomey, who was seriously unimpressed. Where, on a stormy day, Mrs. Hansen-Bolt let us gather at the front of the room and huddle together as she opened up a book and began to read. Where we felt safe.

I wrote these memories feverishly while, in the background, I listened to the continuous coverage of the Sandy Hook shooting. It felt like a compulsive and involuntary act, a race to commit to memory images on an old filmstrip that might, at any moment, melt away. And in some ways, they will, the richness of these memories co-opted by a horror, a redrawing of a psychological map. The library where I sat with Harold and the Purple Crayon now the library where teachers hid their students, supplying them with paper and crayons. Telling them to color while twenty of their schoolmates were shot and killed.

This is the geography of grieving, where a place of life becomes a reminder of death, a reminder that threatens to eclipse the memories that came before. It’s a strange thing to watch a small hometown transformed into a monument, a memorial.