Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We Remember

June 6th is D-Day. We spend time today remembering the troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy and turned the tide in World War II. There was so much loss of life that day - I find it difficult to wrap my mind around. Allied casualties have been estimated to be around 10,000 soldiers. During the months of April and May of 1944, around 12,000 soldiers were lost. This gives us some idea of the carnage that occurred that day. Though the invasion happened 68 years ago, we still remember. We mark the day with prayers and occasionally, solemn ceremonies. The folks who lost family members might gather to talk about the brother or uncle who never came home. The pain may have faded, but the horror never really does; we remember this anniversary and in remembering, we quietly celebrate the freedom that was won by those soldiers' sacrifices. We remember, and we are grateful.

June 6th is a personal d-day for me. It is the anniversary of a life-defining event that changed me forever; it is the anniversary of the sexual assault that occurred when I was 13. It has been 27 years. For many years, I didn't recall much of the incident. I think now that I wasn't strong enough to deal with the pain. Forgetting was a form of self-protection, much like the denial I struggle with in other areas of my life. I still sometimes question whether the pain is real, or whether I deserve to grieve or to call myself a survivor. For a long time, I didn't remember the date when it happened. Then, in 2001, I woke up on the sixth of June and I remembered. Since then, I have marked the anniversary with silence and solitude. I often try to do something I've been frightened to do. In 2002, I went hiking and climbed a huge boulder that jutted out over a sheer drop. I hate heights, but I needed to prove to myself that I could conquer that fear, if only for a few moments.

In later years, I have often had to work on June 6th and so could not have an adventure like the first one, but today I'm on vacation, so I left the beaten path on a lark and just drove. I ended up in Marshall, North Carolina. Going somewhere off-track and without any preparation is something I've been afraid to do for a long time. There's always that nagging fear that if I go somewhere out of the way, something horrible will happen to me. I know it is irrational. There is no safety in staying in one place all the time - there is no true safety anywhere. I know that I have to lay aside that fear and silence the voice that wants me to believe that I deserve horrible things. There was still a part of me today that was just certain that something awful would happen when I left the high-way. It didn't. I think that frightened part of me was shocked when I made it home, safe and sound.

Sometimes people don't understand why survivors mark our anniversaries. They think we are wallowing in our pain, or refusing to heal, or reopening old wounds. They don't get that we are mourning who we once were. We are grieving the loss of our old, false-freedom, our former surety that we were invincible, that nothing horrible could ever happen to us as long as we dressed or talked or acted a certain way. We are marking our loss of innocence. But we are also quietly celebrating the fact that we are alive now, we are well - or getting better - now. We survived. We are tougher. We are stronger. And if we are in a good place now, we can acknowledge that the younger version of us did the best she could. And really, she did all that was needed - she survived.

We remember, and we are grateful.

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