This is one of the few times where I have a lot to say, but not about one topic. This past week was something else for the news, but there was a highlight towards the end of it. But first, I need to get the rambling thoughts out of my head.
The first emotion is heartbreak for Eliza and her family, especially her two young sons. She was abducted on September 2nd during an early morning run and found murdered on September 6th. The culprit was caught, a criminal who had served 20 years in prison and was generally considered to be a pervert, according to his family.
Now I have to admit something I’ve noticed about the social media running community that irritates me. Eliza is not the first case of a female runner who was taken and killed while on a run, and just like the other cases, the perps were perverts who had some seriously messed up views of women. However, whenever something horrible happens to a female runner, other female runners hop online and act like what happened was some horrible crime against the running community as a whole.
Indignant posts and reels from running influencers about how women should be able to run whenever we want, wearing whatever we want, and not have to be worried about safety or carrying self-defense tools with us while running because men never have to. There’s well-rehearsed retorts to questioning the behavior of the before sunrise run crew, because we can’t acknowledge that time and location is something to be mindful of when planning a run. And before anyone thinks otherwise – I am not blaming the late Eliza. Hell, I get up before sunrise and run my neighborhood with mace in my hand. I’m simply pointing out that asking questions about behavior isn’t always victim blaming, and the out-of-the-gate defensiveness with righteous indignation on Instagram isn’t helping the conversation about women runners and safety – or actually changing society for the better.
Eliza was not targeted because she was on a run, anymore than she would have been targeted if she was leaving the graveyard shift at work or having to make an emergency run to the grocery store for her family. I’d argue the activity is irrelevant. She was simply by herself and it was a terrible opportunity. The only one I blame is the man who abducted and killed her, and I hope the justice system doesn’t screw up this one like it did when he was originally released from prison.
So the running community this week was shaken and heartbroken. Eliza was only 34, a wife, a mother to two young sons and a beloved kindergarten teacher. She should have returned home that morning. That she didn’t is a travesty.
Queen Elizabeth II passing
I’m not an Anglophile, but the old political science major in me does like to casually follow the British Royal Family and several other royal families in Europe. Queen Elizabeth’s passing wasn’t shocking per se, but it has filled me with the feeling something is very off. For the entirety of my life, Her Majesty has always been that – Her Majesty. The Queen of England is the world’s grandmother, and at the same time, you could tell she was silent force of nature. Anyone who came of age when her home was getting bombed by Nazi planes could not have been a shrinking violet.
She was a constant, and especially over the past six years in the U.S., there was something relaxing about seeing newscasts and stories about what the queen was up to. There she was with the corgis, or with her family standing by her side.
I didn’t begin truly following Her Majesty until the passing of Prince Philip. We all knew that his passing was difficult for her, and I felt so badly for her when I saw the pictures of her sitting alone at his funeral due to social distancing restrictions. She carried on in the year and a half following his passing, but it was obvious her strength and stay was missing. Losing my own grandfather late last year and being there for my grandmother through her grief stirred up feelings of connection towards the BRF and the queen, of understanding and at the same time a quiet encouragement that if she’s able to keep going each day, we can too.
So when the news announced last Thursday she passed away at Balmoral, I felt some sadness but at the same time, a bit of relief. She had an extraordinary life, and until the very end she served her people as she promised she would. After 70 years of service, she earned her right to rest and more importantly, be united with her strength and stay in the afterlife. Although I have admit it’s a little weird calling him King Charles, but after watching his first address – I think the United Kingdom is going to be alright with him and then the Prince and Princess of Wales.
So Your Majesty, rest in peace. You’ve earned your right to be on your way and thank you for being a constant for at least one Yank.
The anniversary of 9/11
So I know this isn’t a milestone anniversary – last year was the 20th – but keeping up with the news of Eliza Fletcher’s murder and Queen Elizabeth’s passing, I’m afraid sorrow was this past week’s theme.
I was nine on Sept. 11th, 2001, in fourth grade. Some schools did tell the kids about the terrorist attacks, although my elementary school chose not to and felt it was better left up to the parents. I only know this because my mom was at home watching the towers fall and had called the school to see what they were going to do. Back then, the main things I remembered about that day were as follows:
1.) We had indoor recess, which was confusing because it wasn’t raining outside.
2.) Mom wound up picking me up at normal time and telling me once we got home. She was so upset.
3.) That night was my self-defense class. Everyone was panic buying gas, so the main roads were sitting still with traffic.
4.) The Air Force base about a half hour away from us was doing a flyover. During this flyover was a sonic boom, and naturally we’re all thinking there was a terrorist attack at the base.
So my understanding of 9/11 on the day it happened was a simplistic child’s view of Some Very Bad People Did Something Terrible.
But now I’m 30. Every year I watch either a memorial service on one of the national news channels or old clips of that day. All theses years later, watching the planes hit the towers, seeing the jumpers fall to their deaths and seeing the towers fall into a billow of black smoke is never not horrifying to me. It’s horrifying to the point of not even feeling like what I saw was real life, like it’s from a movie instead.
And yet the recordings from the cockpits, hearing the screams of the people running for their lives in Lower Manhattan, and then fast forwarding to the service Mom and I watched this morning … it is real. And I still struggle to wrap my head around the magnitude of it. Even the section of steel from the north tower of the World Trade Center at First Responder’s Park up in Westerville doesn’t feel real. “C-40” as its known shouldn’t be in Westerville – it should be part of a building that’s still standing tall in New York City. But yet this is real, and it’s here, and 3,000 people were killed that day.
Mom and I couldn’t get through the reading of the names, and Grandma shared that it always bothers her too.
Bringing it all home
So I know the events of this past week aren’t happy ones and this post is frankly a downer. Sometimes life just isn’t happy. Sometimes it forces you to be quiet, to really look around and to grieve or be angry when you need to. It grounds you and reminds you that life is short, sometimes tragically so.
It also serves a a humble reminder that life – for however long it winds up being – is about choices. You can choose to dwell in the place of yesterday, you can choose the present, or the future. You can choose to live in resentment and animosity, or you could choose a day at a time to seek out those happy moments and the ones that make life worth living.
After a sad news week and a mildly stressful work week, I decided to focus on getting home this past weekend to see my folks and Grandma. In addition to my human family, my folks adopted Sammy, the American Eskimo puppy from the local humane society. Sammy wasn’t sure what to make of me on Saturday, so Buddy the beagle-Jack Russell mix decided to take advantage of the one-on-one attention from me.
So here we are friends. Embrace the happiness when it comes, and keep on keeping on through the sad times.
Yours in writing and running,