I was with a group of KU retirees right outside Pioneer Cemetery in Lawrence this morning, the closest we could get to watch the 9 AM detonation and implosion of McCollum Hall on Daisy Hill. Although we waited in anticipation for over an hour, and the actual destruction of the building took only ten seconds, at this moment, hours later, my heart is still pounding, and I can still hear the fifteen or sixteen thumping blasts before the one big terrifying BANG which brought down the imposing ten-story structure. And then, suddenly, the wind brought the airborne debris in our direction, covering not just many among the living but also all our friends and colleagues who lie buried at the cemetery.
Here’s what went through my mind: Is this what Syrians experience on a daily basis as their buildings are bombarded and their lives are destroyed by the airstrikes from the west? Did it really all begin with September 11, 2001? What was it like for people in New York on that fateful day? And what was it like for people who lived near the Nazi death camps and the crematoriums during World War II? What was it like to stand beneath snow that does not melt? Ashes unto ashes, dust unto dust.
And then the following lines from Emily Dickinson: “As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow–First–Chill–then Stupor–then the letting go.” Except I cannot seem to let go. Not yet. Maybe never.