One day,on a Friday in November, twenty nine men went off to work as they usually did. They kissed their mothers, lovers, wives – or slammed the door on them. They whistled to the dog & gave it a rub on the head – or swore at it, they cuddled their children – or kicked forgotten toys across the lawn.
In any case, they went to work. As they usually did.
Got on a bus, laughed with their mates, joked with the driver, planned their weekends. As they usually did.
Arrived at their workplace, collected their equipment, rode down the long dark tunnel. As they usually did.
Well, for one it wasn’t usual. It was his first day at work. Early. He should have gone the next Monday, but he was so keen that he went on Friday, in November.
For others, it was a life’s work, here or around the world – Australia, South Africa, Scotland. But today it was here. Doing what they usually do.
I’m not going to say what they usually do for we all know, and for those that don’t, it doesn’t matter anyway. Because it could be any tragedy, anywhere in the world. An earthquake, a flood, an industrial accident, a vehicle smash, a day of play. We all go about doing what we usually do. No one expects not to return. No one expects their loved one not to return.
But something about the day didn’t go as it usually did. Maybe we’ll never know what.
And by the end of the day, the hospitals were being readied, the media were arriving. There were people in uniforms, sirens. And helicopters.
There were tears & sobbing, vacant faces, confusion, fear, cakes & cups of tea, solemn announcements, hopeful announcements, tissues & cameras. And always the helicopters.
Then gas tests & robots, cameras & media briefings, family meetings, mattresses, cakes & cups of tea, phonecalls, emails, cards, whitebait fritters & cups of teas. More helicopters.
Explosions, anguish, wailing, fainting. The cameras mostly went away. Dead people aren’t news it seems. More cards, soft toys, McDonalds, pizza, Arguments, briefings, debriefings. No more helicopters.
They’re still waiting. Or not. The mothers, lovers, wives, children, dogs. Some had to leave – back to their home countries and towns. With sorrow in tow, and sullen teens, fatherless children, pregnant bellies, broken hearts. Some wait still, for a body unlikely to come. Unbelieving, or unbelievably still hopeful. I’m not sure which.
And today, we go to our work. To our play. To our tasks around the home. As we usually do. Waiting.