There is no poetry here. I have no metaphors- no pretty words. Only heartache.
Yesterday, a building in Lagos, Nigeria came crashing down.
In it was a “residential block containing a number of apartments,” as well as a school on the top floor. And though the “building had been identified as “distressed” and listed for demolition”, it continued to remain open- putting hundreds of lives at risk. Many were injured. Several dead. And others have yet to be found underneath the rubble.
For us- who live our privileged American lives- earthquakes bring down walls. Or tornadoes bring down walls. Or some other vicious attack from Mother Nature brings down walls. But not- but never –neglectful regulations from building control agencies. But never low-quality materials used for construction.
And yet, this is the re-told story of the people in Nigeria. In 2014, it was the lives of 116 people taken with a fallen building. In 2016, it was more than 100. And as for today, they’re still pulling bodies from the “piles of broken concrete and twisted metal.”
In a dispiriting video, the people of Lagos surround the debris in overwhelmed emotion. Some weep, clutching themselves as they offer loud prayers. Some stand, paralyzed by the chaos unveiling itself. Some act, vigorously helping alongside the rescue team. All define community by their caring and loving of neighbor.
And as for us?
We’ll write, sharing the tale of Lagos. We’ll pray, asking for mercy over the wounded residents and schoolchildren. We’ll sit, with our minds full of worry and our hearts full of ache. We’ll define community by our caring and loving of a neighbor thousands of miles away.
Maybe I was wrong. Perhaps poetry is here after all.