The past few days seem like a dream. Our community has suffered an unimaginable disaster. As I try to wrap my head around this I have to move forward with my day. Kids to get off to school, bills to pay, clothes to wash and dogs to feed. It is all over shadowed by a growing sorrow. One that starts on the outer regions of your body and slowly, day by day, settles into your heart and grips your throat.
I have watched this unreal seen play out in my small town. At first the news crews were set up by City Hall with the road out front of the Police Department blocked for news updates to be filmed. Local agencies had control and neighbors were poised to do anything it took to help.
Monday evening, that started to change in a good way. At least that is what you tell yourself. Your head understands, but your heart has a hard time processing. You see, the National Guard and FEMA arrived and brought expertly trained search and rescue teams. One of the teams is the very same team that worked Ground Zero of the World Trade Towers. They bring knowledge, specialized equipment and dogs, all of which we desperately need. But then you realize something has changed. When you drive past the police station the news trucks are gone and the road block is down. The faces you have come to know are not there and you see military men and women in uniform coming and going from City Hall. You begin to realize your local officials are no longer in control of the situation and that is when your heart and head come into conflict. Although your head understands that our resources are not equipped to handle a disaster of this magnitude your heart begins to ache as outsiders take over.
A voice inside says, “These are our friends and they need our help. We live here. Who are you?” You have friends and family aiding in the search that you are praying for. As you are processing these emotions you drive past Haller Park and see it. The massive news camp set up with vans, satellite dishes, bright lights and people everywhere right in the very place you take your children to play. The reality hits you, they are not going anywhere anytime soon.
You go home and see all the reports from local and national stations with scenery and buildings in the background that are all to familiar to you. The place you shop, get your hair done, your bank, chiropractor, favorite restaurant and yes, the hardest sight of all, our river.
Yes, we need your help. Yes, you have to be here. Yes, our town is changed forever. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you. Just remember, this is our town these are our people and when the search is over, the funerals are held and you go home, we will remain here in our town, forever changed ... living in the shadow of tragedy.
Tonya Yanity lives in Arlington.