This morning I met a woman who seems to have avoided some of our nation’s biggest catastrophes by simply moving away just months before disaster strikes. It is especially eerie and I should’ve given her my phone number so I could be notified in the event she decides to leave Oklahoma City once again.
My neighbor is having an estate sale this weekend, which is where I came to meet her. This woman and I got to talking about books and nuclear power plants that somehow led to her telling me stories of her previous life in South Florida. It turns out she moved away from the Miami suburb of Homestead to Oklahoma City only months before Homestead was blown off the map by Hurricane Andrew. She seemed truly saddened when I told her that even Homestead Air Force base was obliterated.
Soon after her return to Oklahoma, she left for New York City only to learn months later of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building here in downtown OKC. Domestic terrorism was something she never thought could happen, but she isn’t immune to the grief of such atrocities. It turns out she was still living in New York City during the 9/11 attacks.
Almost wearily, she told me, “I moved back to Oklahoma City last year and now New York City underwater.” Out of morbid curiosity, and also because I felt completely comfortable in asking, I said, “Do you feel like you’re connected to it, to the beginning of the sequence? Like all of these things just follow you?”
And with a half-smile on her face, she said yes. “I’m afraid of what will happen to this place if I leave Oklahoma City again.” I could see a bit of truth in her face, though. She carries some emotional baggage.
We continued to talk, mostly about other such morbid subjects like the Triangle Factory fire, the strangling ties on window blinds, mercury in medicines and asbestos in the walls. All these things that, in one way or another, had to happen in order for our future selves to understand how to make life better. I was surprised by her acceptance of such things, if only because I agree with her. It is very difficult to find someone like this, who is openly honest in believing bad things have to happen to people in order to make things better for others. I don’t know if she has ever lost someone for this reason, though. I didn’t want to ask.
I simply made my way home and thought long and hard about how a victim of any misfortune, whether it was caused by humans or Mother Nature, would feel about our belief in bad things. It could be the atheist in me trusting in fate, believing in a natural order of things, and understanding that no good deed goes unpunished. The relationship many people have with the world at large is a challenging one and our own personal grievances and guilt shape it, hopefully in a more forgiving manner. And that’s my belief that good things inevitably come from the bad things.