You might not have noticed, but I haven’t written for the past couple of weeks.
Last week was because I was busy winding my way back to the US. I chose to return the day after our election so I wouldn’t have to endure the mindless onslaught of political ads that permeate every pore of society. And yes – because I’m fortunate enough to live in a state that tries to make it easier for its citizens to vote rather than more difficult — I voted from Italy.
(Notice to those of you in Ohio: You have 4 years to pack up your bags and move. Being the Chosen People is not an easy role to play, and while you did a good job of keeping the race exciting, I’m just not sure your collective constitutions will stand up to another battering in 2016. You deserve a rest. For those of you who want to stay, may I suggest that you petition your elected officials to pass a law forbidding any form of political advertising until two weeks before an election. Even in your weakened state, you can take 2 weeks; more would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.)
I didn’t write the week before because of Sandy. Somehow it didn’t seem right to put out a glib piece when so many people were hurting so badly.
I’ve been in Italy for 3 of America’s recent crises, and can only describe seeing your country suffer from afar as wrenching. Living on the East Coast, I had many friends in dangerous areas during Sandy. In Italy, we get news channels from all over the world, and all of them had the SuperStorm as their lead story. The build-up was excruciating…..and then it was over and we saw the horrible aftermath. For once, the pre-storm hype wasn’t hype at all; in the areas hit hardest, it was much worse than expected. Most of my friends in the way of the storm weathered it relatively well, though a couple did have multi-day power outages. However one friend lost her summer house entirely. She said none of her belongings was found – only a few appliances to go with the cinder blocks that showed where her house had once been. The good news is that all of my friends were safe. Still….you keep holding your breath until you hear from every last one of them.
My second American Crisis was the financial meltdown of 2008. I had just stopped working 3 months before in order to spend 6 months in Italy. It had been very sad to leave all of my friends and co-workers after 30 years in the financial industry, but not nearly as sad for me as it was to be 4400 miles away from them while the markets dissolved like the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy threw water on her. Had I been at work, the markets still would have imploded, but we would have tried to give comfort to each other. Being in Italy, I felt quite alone, helpless and scared.
But of course, nothing was more scary than 9/11. I was alone in my car going from Florence to San Gimignano when the fast-speaking DJ suddenly went from packing 500 words in per minute to a speed I could almost understand. I didn’t know what exactly had happened, but I knew it was in the US, and by her tone, I knew that it was very, very bad. The reality turned out to be much worse than any of the scenarios I was conjuring in my mind during that drive. And of all the scars left after a crisis has passed, 9/11’s have been the most far-reaching and long-lasting. Should you forget, you’re reminded of it every time you board a plane……anywhere in the world.
I am now on the East Coast, where electricity is back on for almost everyone and the arduous process of re-building is underway. When I started writing this piece, I called it “American Crises”. Then I woke up Monday to find Facebook posts from friends in Orvieto showing truly unimaginable flooding in all of the small towns that sit in the valley around its base. And I find myself once again an ocean away from a crisis – worrying about friends and the effect this will have on the entire area. Below is a YouTube link taken from Orvieto looking down to Orvieto Scalo, showing the damage. And under the link is a photo I took last summer from almost the same vantage point. Just like the victims of Sandy, they must now begin the heartbreaking task of re-building.
Crises happen all over the globe, but when you know the people involved and can personally hear the pain in their voices and truly feel their anguish, then that particular crisis rises to a whole other level of importance. And you realize that wherever we are, we are all in this together.