At our last duty station (Charleston S.C.), we lived in the civilian world, in a pretty thickly populated area. We were not "locals", but neither were many of our (non-military) neighbors. We were accepted as just another family, which meant we were not unwanted, we just were not exactly wanted either. After almost two years, I felt no great emotional connect to the area or the locals. I knew I wouldn't mourn leaving there. A few months before our departure, just 1 year ago last week actually, something happened. That something was a tragedy, that would forever bind some part of my heart with our greater Charleston community. Nine local firefighters would perish in a warehouse fire just down the road from our home. As the totality of the loss sank in, we did not just watch the community mourn- we mourned with them. With heavy heart my husband donned his uniform and I walked beside him to the memorial service where I cried with thousands of other mourners, and felt for once like I was part of the community around me. In tragedy, we were one.
Our current duty station is a bit different, in that it's a very small town heavily dependant on maritime industries. We certainly fit in here a bit easier than the big city. The locals have been welcoming, our children have found plenty of local friends, we work, volunteer, and play in the local community. Even so, there is always that feeling of living on the peripherals of community. We are here for three years and everyone knows it. You can only invest so much in a family that is going to move on in three years.
Today though, once again I realize the strongest connector in any new community may well be shared adversity. This time the tie that binds is not tragic loss of human life, but rather a painful loss in the justice system for the community at large. 20 years after the EXXON Valdez nightmare first began, the US Supreme Court reduced the amount awarded to local businesses and individuals whose livelihoods have been forever damaged. None of it directly affects me or my bank account, but as I watch people I have grown to respect and admire take this one in the gut- I recognize this pang for what it is. Once again adversity has driven home the point- we don't live in bubbles, at some level the communities that house us become a part of us... and we of them. I wonder if that connect could be found without adversity, in a kinder gentler manner? I wonder why it's pain that so often pulls us together as a people? I guess we'll just chalk this one up to human nature.
Scene in downtown Cordova after the ruling was made