I woke up yesterday happy, with renewed determination to live in the present. I made breakfast for my children, packed my bags for a day of work, and exercised with Beyonce on full blast, my son hopping around me doing half assed burpees and push-ups. Yes, I knew the threat of a Nuclear attack was still hanging over us, but what was I going to do? I cried the day before and could not bring myself to cry again today. I fielded calls from off-island cousins, all of whom were bawling and expressing their desire to come home and be with us. “If something happens to you guys, there is no use living for me anymore!” one sobbed through the phone. I reassured her that we were fine and joked about sleeping with a bra on, so I wouldn’t be running around unsupported should we be hit in the middle of the night. I reminded her not to worry because “as far as I know, all stateside military families are still here.” My Uncles have been joking that we have nothing to worry about until America starts evacuating it’s “real” citizens (like last time). I checked my e-mail and again, sent messages of comfort to friends and family who were a complete wreck far away, messages from friends and relatives I hadn’t heard from in months. I updated my facebook status: “If I die in a nuclear attack, please tell people I was skinny and only use pictures from 1999-2010.” 116 Likes (most of them from friends far away). When I posted the day before about being scared, I got 40 likes. I am coming to realize my friends far away do not really know how to talk to me about this, but if I joke about it, they feel better; so I keep joking whenever one of them calls me… and this brightens their day. They are able to move on with their lives without worrying about us.
I threw myself into my work, never stopping to think about anything other than students and deadlines and editing. It felt good. I laughed with one of my closest girlfriends and we watched our children run around as we tackled a to-do list. Later in the day, my child entered our work space with a swollen face. He must have come across something containing peanut or peanut dust that triggered his allergies. I gave him medicine, rinsed him off, and began driving home, too busy to think of the world’s politics. And I was grateful for all of this: grateful for the deadlines quickly approaching, grateful for the students flooding my inbox with requests, even grateful for the allergy attack that put me into “mom medic mode.” It kept me sane.
I welcomed my husband and baby girl home, grateful to see their faces, eager to sit at a table and eat with them. As we bless our food, my daughter clasps her hands together and pretends to pray, a gesture we all find cute. We end up getting distracted mid prayer to cheer for her and clap that she is “praying;” (so our prayer wasn’t very solemn or respectful, but I think God understood). I hear my phone. A new message has arrived. I look and see it is from my daughter’s daycare. I almost put the phone aside and decide to look at it later before realizing it could be an important reminder for tomorrow. Maybe someone is having a birthday party and I won’t have to make her lunch! I look at the message. It’s a document that needs downloading. Curious, I click on “download.”
A blue, newsletter-looking PDF appears on the screen. I look closer.
“North Korea Threat Briefing Information”
The document is nineteen pages long. I start scrolling through it. I flip through its pages, but stand still reading the final page.
Before, During, and After a Nuclear Blast.
Lay on the floor face down. Do not get up immediately. Shock waves will come minutes after the blast.
Do not look at the blast. It will blind you.
Do not leave your house for 24 hours after the blast to avoid radioactive material.
If you are outside, immediately take a shower and clean yourself with soap and water thoroughly.
Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair.
I stop reading. A painful lump emerges in my throat. I promised myself I would not submit to panic and fear today. I promised myself I would have a normal day. I stand still for a few minutes and am able to compose myself. I close the document and click on the message below it. Someone has forwarded a video of our Governor talking to Donald Trump. The Governor is clearly excited to be speaking to Trump. He is all smiles and it reminds me of the time I went to a Cher concert in Las Vegas. “The Governor is acting the way I acted when I first saw Cher,” I think to myself. He tells him he has “never felt more safe” than with Trump “at the helm.” Trump says something about us being a “lovely island.” Disgusted, I turn off the video.
I was supposed to have a normal day, but more and more, I begin to understand that the longer I live here, the more I must return to my definition of “normal” and revise it.