All the way in Thailand (oh yes by the way I’m on vacation sorry I never tell you anything), my boyfriend and I were following the news on the MH17 crash quite intently. A plane disaster with so many victims is one of those terrible things that lodges itself right into your brain and affects you.
It had been a main topic of conversation for us from the moment we first heard about it. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, whether or not you know someone who was on that plane, you are stricken by this tragedy.
All the way in Chiang Rai, Will and I talked about it. We discussed our opinions on Russia and Putin, the implications of this terrible event, the consequences we did or did not expect to occur. We talked about the horrors that were already taking place in Ukraine before the plane crash — as well as all the other places in the world where horrible things are happening: once you are on that topic of conversation you can go on forever.
And then we came back to the guest house after dinner and before bed, I received an email from work. I was informed my coworker and office roommate had been on that plane.
He was a very intelligent, hardworking and sweet PhD student from Malaysia.
We had shared an office for six months now. I didn’t see him every day and we weren’t close, but I saw him often and we were friendly. He was polite and super smart. I made him laugh with the occasional YouTube video. We chatted about his research and my job and our countries. The last conversation we ever had was about our upcoming vacations.
He was going to be with his family for a few weeks and I would visit Thailand. I told him I’d never been to Asia, he told me he was happy to see his family again. What I remember most distinctly is that we said we’d tell each other all about our vacations when we get back.
But we’re not going to do that. Because he died in a plane crash. He is not going to come back to work, to his research. He never even got to see his family again.
I cried a lot for him, while I didn’t feel I have the right to. Although we were friendly, he was “just” a coworker. I cannot even imagine the pain of the family and friends of the victims, especially with this horrifying aftermath.
But it was in my thoughts, even as we tried to get our minds off it. At night our bed turned into a newsroom with international papers spread on the sheets and Twitter feeds of journalists on the scene on our phone. I even checked the passenger list once I found it, with some sort of bizarre hope we had all been wrong.
We were consumed by it. Selfishly, we are now trying to slightly move away from it, because I feel sick every time I see something from the crash site and Will gets enraged by every bit of news of Russia being outrageously offensive.
It’s been a long time since I used my blog as a venting machine, as a place to process of just be vulnerable. I’m doing it now, because I can’t seem to let it go. I keep thinking about it.
This tragedy made me hyper-aware of two things: One, the world is full of suffering and pain. Which I always know, but never truly allow myself to feel, you know? It’s too much. And I don’t know what to do about it.
And second, you always think you’re going to see someone again, until you don’t. We take our safety and health for granted, especially in our country where there is no war, poverty or power struggle.
Although constantly being aware of the hurt in the world is not a constructive way to live, and always being afraid for the lives of your loved ones isn’t either, I can see the lessons here. I am still trying to figure out how to put both these things to good use; because at this point that is pretty much all you can do.
Today, I will think of everyone on that plane, everyone who lost someone and everyone else who is affected. I will write a card for my coworker’s family to let them know their son was appreciated and will be missed.
I will hold my boyfriend’s hand and together we hope for respect for the victims and justice to be served in their honor. For better times ahead for Ukraine after this, but also for Gaza and any other place in the world where people suffer. And because thinking only does so much, I will think of ways to contribute to a better world.
And also, I love you. I appreciate your presence. I hope you’re safe and happy. Take care.
Namaste (my light honors your light) babies.