Community of Feeling

from Greek sympatheia “fellow-feeling, community of feeling,” from assimilated form of syn- “together” + pathos “feeling, suffering”.

Today’s 10 minute, unedited free write, based on the Daily Post’s daily prompt: Sympathy

Like so many others, I remember exactly where I was thirteen years ago. I was in college, which is to say Toronto. It was my second year and this new country was just starting to feel less foreign.

I had a three hour long class that started at 8:30AM every Tuesday and Thursday that semester. There was a student in the back who always had his short wave radio on, volume turned down but always murmuring in the background of every lecture. Not long after class began, his hand shot up from the back of the room, flagging something urgent. “Someone has blown up the Empire State Building!” he told us, wide eyed. The whole room went quiet. The teacher called for a break to regroup and ten long minutes later, when it was more clear what had happened, he announced that class was canceled.

I had no classes for the rest of the day.I repeatedly tried to call my sister, who was going to school just north of New York City. I sat in the common room of a friend’s dorm watching everything unfold. Shock. Fear. Numbness. Sadness and loss. Anger. But I also remember that I wasn’t in those feelings alone. Not only were Canadians feeling the fear, evacuating all of their tallest buildings, but in the days and weeks that followed, they felt the loss, the shock, the anger than comes in the early stages of grief.

There were few Canadians I’d met without someone in the United States. Each new face had a relative, a friend from college, a former co-worker somewhere across the imaginary line that divided us. With a broadness I haven’t seen amongst those in the U.S. towards those experiencing tragedy in Canada, those in Canada felt with us that day. Our pain, our fear, our loss was theirs too, sometimes very personally but more often, in a deep sense of shared existence and community.

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