Today's post is the first in a two-parter. The second half will follow later this week, but I felt the need to explain the genesis of part two in this introductory missive.
Our family has been coming down to the South Florida region for almost as long as I have walked the earth. This area plays prominently in my admittedly sepia-coloured childhood memories. When money was tight and family vacations were done on the cheap, it wasn't unusual for all of my parents to pile all of us kids into my mom's 70-something Ford station wagon and head south on I75. (My sister-in-law, keeper of the family archives, recently sent me several very embarrassing photos from that era. If you really need to see them, contact me offline.) As we grew older and my parents began wintering down here, visits with my kids became the norm, and now The Husband and I are fortunate enough to have our own winter misery-escape hatch in the North Miami area. In many ways, South Florida feels like a second home. Admittedly, there are some things about being here that I will never truly understand and will never fully reconcile, but I have been able to rationalize it as quirky variances in the Canadian/American dynamic. This is in no way America bashing, nor is it in any way a demonstration of our vaunted Canadian pomposity. It is simply a statement that while we live close to one another, we are different.
And...sad to say...my family has not been totally immune to the violence that seems to be more random here than at home. A dear friend of my parents was shot and killed as part of an aborted robbery while he parked his car at a neighbourhood restaurant. He had less than $50.00 cash in his wallet. His murderer was caught while shopping at Walmart with his bounty. A few years back, a Toronto couple, well-known in the Jewish community, was murdered while in their condo just down the street from us. Their killings remain unsolved.
And yet...we keep returning. The snowbird flight plan is deeply ingrained. Canadian winters are wretched and as we age, we tolerate them less well. And...we tend to view these incidents merely as random acts of violence.
But last Friday felt different. The killings at the Fort Lauderdale airport hit me right in my sweet spot. It was oh so close and oh so personal. Every single day, we know people going through Terminal 2 at FLL. This is the terminal that services all of Air Canada's flights. Torontonians, Montrealers, and Ottawans fly in and out many times a day from this place. I have been there hundreds of times, both as a shuttle service and as a passenger. My children have stood in the exact spot where people died. A friend had exited the airport with her thirteen-year-old son a mere hour before the horror. My cousin's parents were in the upper concourse waiting for her aunt as the shots rang out. They are thankfully fine.
We count ourselves, all of us, amongst the fortunate. A different day, a different week, a different time.....
And while I am fully aware that these horrific events nauseatingly occur on a daily basis in the United States, I have never before experienced the kinship I felt Friday. I felt an even more intense loathing and disgust than I ever had before for those milquetoast politicians who offered thoughts and prayers on Twitter while having zero intention of dealing with a gun problem so cancerous and rampant that even those suffering from acute mental illness have access to them. I detected a bilious taste when I listened to loathsome shills for the NRA talk falsely about "good guys with guns." I vented on Facebook about the false stories about the murderer coming from Canada. I ridiculously felt a need to defend my country from the Pandora's box of absurdity that has been unleashed down here. And most of all, I was discomfited by how easily and how quickly people here moved on from the tragedy. The ordinariness of it was profoundly disturbing. There were questions about flights being delayed, luggage lost, traffic around the airport, and how all of it would impact the daily lives of citizens. I've been waiting for news of memorials. It hasn't come yet. I can tell you how to retrieve a lost cell phone, but not the location of a vigil. In short...I felt and still do feel miserably depressed. I am exhausted and I am sad. This place of interlude and respite has become like a dystopian teen novel, and the really really sad part of it all is that I see it getting worse, not better over the coming years.
Since Friday, I have needed to find a way to revive and renew. I have taken refuge in the arts. I have listened to music, watched some very fine films, read a terrific novel, and chatted with some amazing visual artists at a weekend show. There is healing in creativity and I have sought out the oasis.
There are days when it feels as though the world around us has simply imploded. How we cope with those times defines us and illuminates a path forward in a profoundly aberrant environment. It is my belief that we are living in an era that is deviant and extreme. But we can regain the upper hand on the chaos by reveling in the beauty and the imagination of our most creative souls. All of this will be further fleshed out in part two of this post.
Zichronam Livracha...May their memories always be for blessing.