Tragedy bonds us


Morgan Coley, Empty,

Acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”,

2020, Painting II

If you look at memory through a psychology lens, there’s a term known as collective memory, or a memory which an entire group of people will remember as a generation. If you look back into the history of these collective memories, there’s a similar theme.

When I ask my grandmother about the thing of her generation that she will never forget, her answer is quick and simple-- JFK’s assassination. She remembers hearing an announcement over the loudspeaker at school saying that school has been prematurely dismissed. Their beloved president had been shot and killed. She went home and cried with her parents, rewatching the footage rolling on the old, chunky, TV set.

For my mother, her response is just as unnerving. She remembers working at a Godiva chocolate store when she saw the small, staticky TV hung in the top corner of the room light up with breaking news. The twin towers had just been struck. Her coworkers broke down in tears, and my mother immediately thought about the safety and future of her four children.

For me, I remember sitting on the couch with my parents, watching the governor on our flat screen TV, closing all non-essential businesses, schools, while preparing the state for quarantine and isolation. I’ll remember crying because my graduation at college was canceled and fearing to catch a virus that could kill me due to my already weak, asthmatic lungs.

Funny enough, this type of tragedy bonds us, and connects us as a generation of people. We’re all going through a similar struggle, but to varying extents. We’ll all remember what life was like when we were scared, uncertain, and sheltered. At the end of the day, within this grand tragedy, we have our community united (while socially distancing, of course) to support those in greater struggle.