Evac Day 30/62: Courage to Stay

We’re planning to move home this weekend, a few days from now. The boil water notice was lifted for us last week but with the unexpected trip to Colorado and being settled where we are we didn’t feel a need to rush back to the disaster-vibe scene in our neighborhood.

The persistent toxic mud dust, the huge trucks full of mud and parts of houses and other “debris,” the surprise road closures and endless traffic jams previously foreign to our little community are all unwelcome reminders of what happened here.

When I walk in my house I see mud even though there isn’t any there. Like a premonition, or just pure, unvarnished fear. Drowning mud death. That’s what we survived.

The trucks, the road work signs, the mud, are all here. They’re all triggers for me, zaps of “Not Safe!” Or, more accurately, zaps of “You And Everyone Around You Could Die Right Now!”

It’s not even Evie voice, it’s some deep primal survival thing that feels a lot like how I felt after 9/11, when I went out and bought hazmat suits and gas masks for me and my then-boyfriend. I was convinced the next one would be gas. The innocuous water bottle in the subway. A lot of us were in that mode, it’s not like I was particularly panicked, I was planning.

My then-boyfriend said, “If they gas us we’re not gonna have time to get those things on.” He was right.

And I left New York after that. It took me a few years, I was committed to my work, or something, but my heart left the city then, I realize now, looking back. I didn’t get it then, that that’s what it was, death fear.

At the time it wasn’t patriotic to admit how terrifying unthinkable sudden death was, how far far away I wanted to get from the reminders of that, the big burning pile, the crematorium, I walked past to work for weeks afterwards, the stories of friends, too terrible to share. Things that should not be. The entire financial district one big graveyard.

We were told to go out to dinner. And we went out to dinner. And to drinks. My friends, colleagues, and I drank a lot of alcohol and worked a lot of long hours.

I didn’t process anything. I drank. I “burnt out,” and I left. I had visions of dying gruesome deaths that I didn’t tell anyone but my then-therapist who suggested antidepressants and told me to keep working, which I did until I didn’t.

This time I’m doing trauma differently. I’m not hiding it, not shoving it down and putting a happy face on it because that strategy didn’t work. I’m not numbing out for it because that didn’t work either. I’m talking about it, I’m sharing it with you, I’m taking it one day, one minute, at a time.

I love my community. I love my family. I love my home. I’m gonna stay put, and keep going.