A Week of Mourning: my reflections

I don’t usually do word based posts.  Those of you who know me, know I am much better at expressing myself and feelings through pictures.  I just felt that there were some thoughts I needed to get out even if I am the only one that reads them.

By now most people reading this will have heard about the train crash that killed 79 people and left many more injured last Wednesday night.  It happened just before 9pm, 2 miles from the Santiago train station, on the eve of the biggest festival of the year.  That night just hours later should have kicked off a week of celebrations, concerts, fairs and other summer festivities.  Many people on the train were on there way to Santiago for that very reason.  Sadly instead, it kicked off a week of mourning for the entire region.

I have never lived in a place where a tragedy like that has hit so close.  Part of me expected it to feel different.  I myself didn’t know anyone on the train or even know anyone who knew anyone.  I am thankful for that.  I am sure that if I had then this post would be very different.  The city did have a somber feel, like a weight that seemed to press down.  There was no out door concerts and music in the squares like there usually is all summer long.  The stage that had been set up for the week long schedule of concerts remained shrouded in black and was taken down after serving as a screen for the funeral mass.  The buses and shops had black ribbons in the windows and people left flowers, letters, shells and walking staffs outside the cathedral.  But for those not affected directly, life went back to normal fairly quickly.  Pilgrims still poured in, tourists who had come for the festival walked around enjoying the town.  I continued to study spanish, work on different tasks for the welcome center and help my teammates move.  I never saw the crash site (I don’t have a car and even if I did, it’s not a place you would normally just drive by).  Was it wrong to feel normal when so many others were hurting?  Part of me felt very detached from the situation and part of me really wanted to just support the community that has become my home.

I decided to make sure that each day during the 7 days I would take time out to think about or do something to honor the victims.  I went to the funeral mass on Monday and I spent an afternoon sitting outside the cathedral at the memorial, reading the notes and praying for the families.  One night, I felt an overwhelming urge to listen to some worship songs that I hadn’t listened to in forever.  I didn’t even remember some of the names but luckily Google knew 🙂 Earlier that week a dear friend from college passed away from brain cancer and that Wednesday happen to be his memorial service.  Less then a week after the crash there was another train crash in Switzerland and a bus accident in Italy that left 37 people dead.  As I listed to some of the songs, I couldn’t help but just think about all the chaos and death that surrounds us sometimes and even though it doesn’t seem like it, amidst it all, God is there.  Even when we can’t feel him, he is there.  When we think he has left us, he hasn’t and during those times we are still to praise him and worship him.  I know that it is not a new revelation but it is one that I need constant reminding of.  It seems like it should be easy since I know it in my head, it’s not a complicated concept but to actually do it is another story. (A smarter man then I, once summed it up in a few words and I would quote it here if I could but I do not remember it exactly.  If you know Joel Limbauan ask him and he will tell you).  So that is what I have taken away from this week.

It was beautiful to watch the community come together and support the families and friends.  The nurses, doctors, policeman, fireman and all those who gave blood are inspirations.  The hundreds who came out to the funeral and the pilgrims who ended their journey in their memory, helped show me what community can look like.  The 7 days of mourning end today (or maybe yesterday. A lot of things get lost in translation when living in a foreign country) and then town will go back to “normal”. I love this city and the people in it.  I feel blessed to get to experience life here, the good and bad.

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