When I first moved into very first, very own house, I looked forward to my very new, very short, 6-minute commute to my job.
Today, it took my an hour to get to my house.
Every major road between my office and my home was now closed off, stacked with National Guard trucks and blue flashing lights. I was turned around at every intersection, forced to make U-turns and 3-point turns and early turns and start over again at the beginning. I drove in circles. I marveled at how as I drove through a town I knew so well, a town I took pride in knowing all the short cuts within, I was lost. I no longer know where any of those roads lead, if any of those roads are open, or ever will be again. I have to re-map my town, my Tuscaloosa. It’s not Tuscaloosa anymore, it’s AfterTuscaloosa.
The newspapers and websites have started having these aerial maps where you can move a slider back and forth and see the “Before” and the “After.” I see so many things in BeforeTuscaloosa. I see Tiffany’s birthday party at our(old) favorite Japanese place; I see the back roads where it is(was) safe to ride your bike; I see (where)the consignment shop(used to be) where my father bought me my first lamp for my very first very own house.
I can move the tiny blue slider, my very own hand-controlled tornado, and see AfterTusclaoosa: A dirty, bright yellow vein through my town that looks like an infection. AfterTuscaloosa is barren and broken, the streets lead to nowhere and they have no names.
Tuscaloosa was my newest love. It was the town where I wanted to put down roots, become a teacher, raise my kids. I was in love with Tuscaloosa, I held its hand in the nighttime, I stayed within its arms as my friends moved on to what they felt were bigger and brighter places. But Tuscaloosa was my own.
Now I feel like a girl whose fiance has been in a motorcycle accident. There are limbs missing, cuts and bruises that make the person I loved look different and frightening. There are wounds that won’t heal, no matter what happens. It will never me the same. And now the world is asking me the most terrible question: Will you stay with the thing that you love the most even if the injury seems irreparable?
My answer is yes my beautiful, war-torn, yellow-wounded Tuscaloosa. Before or After, the slider doesn’t mean I don’t love you. When it moves to the right it shows me the glorious place you were, and when it moves to the left it shows me the miraculous place you will become. They will tell stories about us, how we made it through the fire with scars the shape of wings, and we will tell our children of the heroes who protected their families in bathtubs and pulled babies out from under the rubble.
Each of us now have our own sliders that we can move side to side, we can see all of our lives and our paths and our goals before this and after this. We have all been changed to AfterPeople in AfterTuscaloosa with AfterDreams. But these AfterDreams in this AfterWorld are not less than our BeforeDreams, they’re just different. Now they’re not about ourselves, they’re about each other. They’re not about what we want, now it’s about what Tuscaloosa needs. It’s about helping each other. Now our town is not a mirror, it is a door. And we are all rushing in to save each other.
The lights are slowly growing in this place.