Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Helpless in Geneva

There I was, sitting on a patio at a Geneva brewery, typing away at a funny blog post about my Swiss adventures, when a CBC alert flashed across my iPhone screen. "Breaking: OC Transpo bus and VIA Rail passenger train collide."


I went directly to my CBC app to find out what had happened. But the story was so very breaking, that there was no additional info. Just a red banner streaming the same line over and over across the top of the screen. 

(I have since learned that 5 people died on scene, 1 more in hospital, and 30 people are injured, 11 quite seriously. Holy. Shit.)

I knew right away that Hubby had to be safe. He doesn't take the bus to work, and even if he did, he would not take a bus anywhere near the VIA line. Yet I was in shock. So much so that I didn't even think to go to Twitter or Facebook to see if there were any from-the-ground updates, as there always are in this day and age of social media. Instead, I sat there helplessly staring at the breaking news banner, trying to figure out what to do next. As though there is anything that I actually could do...

The only thing I kept thinking - and am thinking still - was an utterly selfish thought. "God, please tell me that I don't know anyone on that bus." 

Followed by, "How could I not know someone on that damn bus! This is Ottawa!"

Followed by, "I want to be home right now!"

Like I could do a damn thing if I were home right now...

Obviously, I could not do anything particularly useful if I were in Ottawa instead of here. I'm not a first responder. I don't work for VIA or OC Transpo. I'm not an elected official who needs to put on a brave face and give news to the community. 

But here's what I could do if I were home. I could throw my arms around my husband and squeeze him tight, knowing that he was safe and sound. I could tune in to press conferences to know what is going on. I could be there for my staff, many of whom commute to work by bus and who are probably shaken to the very core by what has occurred. 

But most importantly, I could be there with my fellow community members. To grieve with them. To pray with them. To support them. To be strong with them. To draw strength from them.

To love them. 

Instead, I am an ocean away. Trying to get the full picture by following Twitter. Feeling utterly helpless and entirely alone. And missing my family and my community like crazy. 

In the nineteen years that I have been in Ottawa, I have never experienced a tragedy like this one. It is wrenching my gut. And breaking my heart. And making me realize how very much I love my community. What a deep and abiding part of me it has become.

And so, I did the only thing that I could do. I summoned the waiter and paid my bill. Then I walked across the street to the Notre Dame Basilica, which I had planned to visit anyway. I walked down the aisle to the front. I genuflected in front of the alter, bowed to Jesus, and knelt down in the pew. And then I prayed. 

"Angel of God,
My guardian dear.
To whom God's love
Entrust me near.
Ever this day,
Be at my side,
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.
- Amen"

I will be home as soon as I can, Ottawa. In the meantime, my guardian angel agreed that she will give you strength.