It’s really easy to take life for granted. Day-to-day living and day-to-day problems, like: baby and child crises, back-stabbing coworkers, annoying ex-boyfriends, current romance rockiness, traffic, bills and debt, educational woes, and long-distance relationships of all varieties – it’s easy to take for granted these things as constants. Except when they are no longer constant.
Today, I take a short break from complaining about the (sometimes imagined or embellished) difficulties I’m facing in Korea, to acknowledge the loss of a high school classmate. Travis Carter was one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in the Yarnell, AZ wildfire this week. Travis was a year younger than me when I attended a tiny boarding school in the Arizona desert where I lived in dirt and went camping twice a year for credit. There is nothing bad to say about Travis because he was one of those people whom no one can think of anything remotely negative to say. This is not just because he is deceased (which seems often to be the case when a person dies so tragically), but because he was a sincere, genuine guy who was affable and kind. This is, of course, from the far reaches of my non-law-school-damaged brain. I barely knew this person (then or now), so I can only comment that I remember him as sweet boy at 14.
But here’s the thing I must comment on…. this unique sense of grief that people share when they are even tangentially touched by tragedy. My Facebook feed, email accounts, and texts have been flooded with old pictures and comments, and group get-togethers, and random memory posts (like this one) from people from high school that I haven’t seen since we were pimply-faced and awkward (and awkwardly riding horses or awkwardly camping in dirt or awkwardly kissing our first loves – or awkwardly kissing our first loves on an awkward horse during an awkward camping trip). ANYHOW: These people do remember Travis as more than a fuzzy memory; they not only remember, but they know Travis as a roommate, a teammate, a confidante, a friend, a husband, a father, a son. Their memories and their loss reverberates to those of us who can only respond with vague ideas of what and who will forever be missing.
Those of us who didn’t know Travis, or any of the other 18 men who perished, as personally as we would have liked – we still grieve for the small fragments of memory we possess about these people. We grieve, because the loss reminds us of the fragility of our mortality, of the mortality of our loved ones. We grieve in the knowledge that one day can change your life – or end it. And it isn’t the same kind of grief that is being suffered by widows who lost their lovers, or children who lost their fathers, and companions who lost their best friends. But it is grief we share.
Those of us on the fringes can only say that we know we share your grief shallowly – the impact of your loss is only a vibration to us. But, what we share with you is sincere and genuine. We care that the world has lost a guy no one can say anything bad about – even during a pimply and awkward time. There are no words that will give enough comfort or solace, but hopefully, the knowledge that strangers are thinking of these families, of the memories of people we knew long ago (or not so long ago) helps – somehow.
At least, that is what we hope.
For more information on a memorial fund created for Travis Carter’s survivors, please see: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Travis-Krista-Children-Carter-Family-Memorial-Fund