Tag Archives: Brockport New York

Take It With You: Exploring Transition

hartwellScenario: You’re moving from the bell-towered historical building, Hartwell, which is haunted, and is named after the first president of the university you attended for six years and now teach at, to a shiny new building acronymed LAB, a term meant for scientists, but stands for Liberal Arts Building. You are an adjunct instructor of English and sometimes teach composition, and sometimes teach creative writing, and always become attached to students.

Do you pack your computer?

It’s not really yours, though you type this blog post from it as a farewell to the building you’ve become irrationally attached to, as you become irrationally attached to everything–a house you outgrew in just five years, the Steve Madden boots that trudged you through grad school, failed nuances of siblings and friend and exes (that can never quite achieve what reality did), or a coffee mug at a diner. Some people think you are crazy. You’ll pack it, a Dell, though you worry it might not boot up when you plug it in again. You spend the entire blog post wondering if there are instructions somewhere on how to pack a computer. Some items are scary to pack– you remember from when you moved last fall–like the antique lamp your mother gave you. You make a note to look, again, for the bronze lamp you fear you left behind.

Do you sneak something with you?

You’re not talking about something that’s specifically yours or specifically not yours, but that belongs to the building: a window pane, a brick, a light fixture (no: they were all replaced during a renovation in the 1990s, and are fluorescent and tick constantly and when you type for longer than ten minutes, because typing hardly registers any motion–your brain moves more than your body, the light turns off and it’s not the ghost, and you have to wave frantically to have light again).  You were instructed to pack the phone.  You pack the phone, and when you unplug it, wonder if anyone will call. You wish you could keep your key. You’ll pick up a small rock from the garden outside the building on your way out.

Do you cry?

No. Because that would be irrational, and you’ve considered turning over a new leaf, taking on the role of quiet neighbor and silent sister and wondering who you’ve become.  Last night, you read an article on your news feed, which is so full you feel like you could live for days on just water (you can’t even remember which publication the article was from), but it mentions the five regrets people have on their deathbeds, and one regret of the dying was that they wish they’d stood up more, spoken out more, and lived their lives the way they wanted without regard to money or other people’s emotions (what’s wrong with stirring emotions?), and you know you are on a good track because you have stacks of student loans and degrees and are a part-time faculty member at a school you are irrationally attached to, and you have or will upset more than a few people in the next few days.  You swear you just now heard a knock at the door to the office, and when you back up, you hit a huge empty box that you have been told is a good size for your computer, and when you manage to crane your neck to see who’s there, there is no one at the door.

Do you remember?

Bringing your nieces in for a tour of the building, telling them ghost stories about how there once was a pool, and people still sometimes heard splashing, and how a man had died in the cistern, and how the previous Collegiate Building had burned, and how the first Principal, back when it was a “normal school,” had a heart attack at the age of 35 in his office, and how ghosts were everywhere.  You had been their favorite aunt, scaring the wits out of them, and when the heavy wooden door closed just behind the three of you on your way down the stairwell, they shrieked, and you did too.

Remember your mother, who has just retired, at the café downstairs, having lunch with her at the tables, sitting with her on the benches outside the building while she smoked, how she fed your boys chocolate milk and bagels and huge cookies whenever you brought them in for a visit.

The time you hid under a desk one cubicle over because you mis-heard the PA announcement: “Active shooter in room 31” and thought you were on the brink of your death, grateful your son was at daycare and your husband at work, but the shooter, actually, was on Route 31, where you lived at the time, and the man with the gun was not in Hartwell–not just a room or floor away–but had been your neighbor, and your house stood small and proud in the news pictures while you were in Hartwell, safely away, and your family, too, and you laughed because you’d called your parents in what you thought were your last moments, under the desk, sitting next to this very computer, but then it became more horrific when you realized the man with the gun had been just houses down from your son when he slept last night.

Do you leave?

You’re tired from this tour you’ve taken and have one last thing to pack, though you’re still not sure it’s yours to pack, though you know you will need a computer in the LAB, and if you don’t, will it stay behind with all of your files? Then you stop for a minute because the sun shines through the window, and too much more comes to you, like how you and your husband spent hours reading in the Writers Forum office when you had been just friends and then the classes you’d taken with professors you now call friends, but you go too far back, and so everything turns into something else, and before you know it, time is nothing.

 

 

 


Dear Alice Munro,

Leisurely Summer Reading: Child's Play

Leisurely Summer Reading: Child’s Play (Photo credit: Madison Guy)

Dear Alice Munro,

The space you write within, the WWII and post WWII era, the train stations, the sanitariums, the surge of GI students to universities–is the world I’m finding to have preceded me.  At times, when I read a story of yours, for example, “Tell Me Yes or No,” or “How I Met My Husband,” I feel as though I’m researching, still, the history of Brockport.

You know, you are Alice Munro.  The last four pieces in your latest collection, Dear Life, are what you call “the closest thing to autobiographical,” as anything you’ve written.  I know this is both true and not.  But who’s going to argue with you?  You’re Alice Munro.  Did you ever think you would tear a reader’s life to shreds because when the text fades, there is no way to see the world as it was before?  When I finish reading your stories, I cannot get back inside, it’s like a life that’s already been lived.  The bald scalp after a relentless haircut.  The lower back after a pink kanji tattoo.  What’s done is done.  History, as Alice Munro has written it, has been.  Reading it a second time does no justice.  There are no do-overs.  Your stories, like all other stories, are not cats.  We all only have one life.

I’m writing you this blog post–which I’m sure you are waiting to read–because my mother-in-law told me to write a story about a little girl.  This will be the closest thing to autobiographical fiction I will ever write.  And I am no Alice Munro.  I am leaving behind, at least for this one story, your world of barnstorming planes and Quaker Maid factories that I have been squatting in for months.  The setting I write will be entirely my own era, but my life is not something made for fiction.  I only live in a world suitable for it.

It will be some sort of ghost story, and I don’t know, have you written a ghost story?  A real, true ghost story?  I will Google this when I finish your post. It is something I should know.

The world I enter now has factory-induced rain bubbling down the cuticle of Spring Street.  Soil that may or may not give a little girl MS.  The story will have a cast of Cold Storage workers on their way to and from shifts that seem to begin and end every minute.  The little girl will walk down a street with a car prowling next to her, its passenger will reach to pull at her skinny arm.  She will not run away.

I am sending this out into the blogosphere (an ugly word), where you will not see it.  If I were in your Canadian town with a copy in hand, I would place it under your Welcome Mat or tuck it behind the cover of a book you might check out of the library.

Sincerely.


The Next Big Thing: Authors Tagging Authors

What’s better than being both compelled to, and compliant in, sharing your work as a writer?

A vintage ice cream truck

A vintage ice cream truck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank you, Lizz Schumer, Goddard Alum, for tagging me, linking me to your visceral writing that awes me and scares me at the same time.  I will tag two people to do this who are so alive with writing energy: Anne Panning, an award-winning writer of fiction, my writing mentor, and unofficial life-coach.  And also Sarah Freligh, whose poetry rips me away from myself, and whose Poetry Bootcamp rocks my world.

I’m lucky to have them in my writing community.

Writing, for most of us, the sitting at a keyboard, pecking away at keys and at our brains, is solitary–and almost looked down on for being solitary.  I love the solitary act of writing, but writing is not engaging unless the writer does some real work, investigates their presence in the world, becomes a private eye–not just to their own lives–but to the mysteries of the lives and places around us, what’s between the shingles and the dry wall.  To use a bit of my father’s love of the insulation world, to jump into the fiberglass and the cellulose until you’re itching in your sleep and you wake up with bleeding nail scrapes and hard scabs for picking.

So here it is: a way to propose what we plan to offer, a way to support writers whose work we admire and whose process we are curious of.

What is the working title of your book?

My project is a collection of short fiction based on news articles unearthed from archives in Brockport, NY, so I have an inkling that the title will arise from one of the stories that I am in the process of writing.  The title is important because it cannot alienate those who aren’t from Brockport.  These are stories inspired by a history that all towns have lived through.  It just so happens that I’m obsessed with examining Brockport as a way to explore the human condition, how a small-town university, a canal, a former center of industry, how all of these things unique to my own roots, creep into the world.  That said,  I’ve considered a couple–The Local Rag, From Where I am, but ehh, it probably won’t be either of these.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Wartime housewives, untethered college students, rogue pets, and barnstorming doctors wave up from the history of a town, each meeting, and often battling, life on their own terms–in grief, anger, tragedy, surprise and love.

How long did it take you to write?

It is still in the works, but as far as I’m concerned, this love of community and sense of place has been growing since I was child beneath the noontime siren of the village and the ding of the Skippy truck’s bell or the mesmerizing spill of the bubbled puddles that fell from rain outside of the Kleen Brite factory.  I can’t honestly say that I can separate any part of me from this project.  It is as much in my bones as marrow.  I linger extra long in Java Junction’s restroom to read the newspaper ads from The Brockport Republic that plaster its walls.  I nearly slept with a collection of local ghost stories called Valley of the Ghosts under my pillow when I was ten.  I refuse to leave SUNY Brockport, the college I attended for six years because I love earth beneath it.  I, admittedly, have spent hours researching the lives of strangers on Ancestry.com simply because they were “murdered” by a dog in Brockport’s Erie Canal in the 1930s.  So I guess that is how this all started, as an obsession that I finally realized.  These are the stories that inform my writing.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See above.

But I have two little boys for whom I want to preserve every bit of their history–family, local, anything to do with where they come from–just for them.  I want to be sure that writing, which keeps me away from them physically and mentally, comes back to them to show how the people we love are not as bound up in place and time as we might think.

Also, my husband, who is just completely supportive and way more generous with patience (and I am ashamed to say this) than I am.

My family is supportive of  me writing a book, and the energy that I devote to it, even though I am sometimes skeptical of it myself–a recognized addition.  Though my mother does wonder why I am consumed with people who are already dead.  For me, there’s real guilt there.

What genre does your book fall under?

Realism.  I struggle with labeling it as historical fiction because it spans from the 1920’s-1980’s, which feels almost too recent to consider history.  But, I can’t deny the historical research I’ve had to do in order to write these stories, so yeah, of course, there’s history.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a move rendition?

Ha.  My favorite character in any of the pieces I’ve written so far is, strangely enough, the college-aged version of Joel Rifkin before he “became” the serial killer.  He attended SUNY Brockport for a bit in the late 70s, and stole bottle of soy sauce from the Convenient Mart next to the train tracks.  That was the only thing on his record when he was arrested for murdering 17 women much later.  I imagine his character to look like a cross between Wes Bentley  from American Beauty and Michael Cera.  Their impossible love-child.

What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?

These are the quirky anecdotes that have been lost in everyday life.  These are the stories we wish our great grandparents told us.  These are the parts of our world that we don’t know enough about, so we have no option to forget.


Dark Side of the Mind

Cover of "Dark Side of the Moon"

Cover of Dark Side of the Moon

Two nights ago, I knew I was taking the last of my antidepressants. I heard the echo in the orange bottle when the single pill clicked the side. I knew it would be empty in just a second.

My mind was somewhere else.

I was researching my next story–inspired by a news article from the late 60s, a Brockport native, Harris Tuttle Jr, whose daughter, Susan, had been “mentally kidnapped” by the “Moonies,” a group I knew nothing about.

Manson and his followers horrified me for years, but I couldn’t stop watching A&E specials on this group. My husband would look at me skeptically, sipping a beer, while I hid my face in my hands. The screen, aesthetically tinted “vintage” in rusty hues, showed parents who raised children in the compounds. Their young round heads were lit with fine strands of blond hair. A faint melody played in the background.

The phrase “Helter Skelter” alone makes my stomach hurt.

When I was growing up, my father played Pink Floyd’sDark Side of the Moon” on our living room speakers. The televisions were all off, a single light glowed in every room, and I would dance around in a nubby Rainbow Brite nightgown while my mother popped popcorn in a large pot, shaking it noisily on the stove.

When “Time” came on, I froze, running to the couch, covering my ears in terror. The clicking and gonging of clocks in the beginning made me cover my head with the brown tweed throw pillows, and even that couldn’t calm me down. I had a similar, though less intense response to “Money,” with the cash register slamming. This combination of quotidian noises and silence followed drum beats and a single voice, brought any life beyond eerie. Even now, I can’t explain this fear. My father would skip the song in concession to my shrieks.

Last night, I went to bed without my prescription, expecting I would pay somehow for being so unaware. I woke with a raging headache, a gong in my head, and need for quiet and peace, and something else that I didn’t have to make me calm. The prescription.

Ted Patrick, the “deprogrammer” who assisted the Tuttle family, invested himself in saving their daughter, but couldn’t pull Susan from the grasp of the “Moonies.” This was one article of many that a member of the museum found for me, but the only one I brought home. Perhaps the girl had lost her mind for good.

This morning my husband was home, luckily, and I cried to him while shaking, feeling my senses abandon me. I should have known, I scolded myself. The prescription’s absence made me sob for no reason at all. There was no pain to attribute it to, no immediate loss, nothing I’d let go of that tied to this gap of peace in my mind. I felt completely controlled by the pill, and that made me cry harder.

During Johnny’s preschool and Sam’s nap, I though a lot about the “Moonies,” using anecdotes friends donated on Facebook, looking at the photograph of Susan Tuttle, the beautiful young woman who left her family, her own mind and being, to become part of something unknown. She gave herself up.

I’m not sure what I will find in the other articles. The mind is unwieldy, molded as much by the past as the present, by what’s inside as out. I hope I will read that Susan Tuttle somehow “came to her senses,” and I know that if that is possible, it couldn’t be complete.  She could never fully have arrived at her senses, wherever “her senses” were, because wherever else she’d been–that eerie loss of self–is still there, however the paint chips in abandon, whatever windows are boarded, it can always be reached.


Old News

One thing I miss about living with my parents: the Democrat & Chronicle that arrived outside their screen door every morning.

When it didn’t arrive–snowy mornings, especially, or came late for whatever excuse the deliverer had, there was an absence, some missing constant. I was an adolescent and read the paper with my morning bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Some days, if on the front page was a sports-related headline, like the Super Bowl Champs, or a particular legislative conflict, say, the Monica Lewinsky debacle, I might have skipped to the ‘C’ Section: Living, where I could read my horoscope to see what magical or melodramatic event my day would hold, or Jack Garner‘s review of Armageddon, where I’d decided that any movie with astronauts would at least get 8 stars. If the paper didn’t show up, it was today’s misplaced cellphone. A can emptied of all its coffee grounds. Or, imagine, if the Facebook site crashed.

As I grew up, I became more concerned with the ‘B’ section: Local, the (mostly) miniature catastrophes, the small-town news. A page or so in, I would find the Obituaries, and read them, looking for familiar last names, which, if I did recognize them, would mostly be the great grandparents or grandparents of my acquaintances.

Now, when I go “home,” to my parents’ house, I instinctively reach for the newspaper that was usually folded and in the center of the table (except for the Sports section, which I never read, but was always next to the toilet, anyway), but now they only get the weekend paper, which is a strange option to me, as though all important stories are saved for the weekend. Sadder, to me, is when I recognize that people either don’t have time for a daily paper, don’t have the desire to handle its unwieldy pages, or, like me, refuse to pay for what they can now get for free. The problem is that the paper determined what was important to me, so now, in this information-age, how do I find what’s important in the face of so much else? The whole internet full of triumph and tragedy intimidates me, and I can close the window easily enough.

Idaho, a news photo of the dog who was tried for murder. Here, he is situated at a typewriter.

Lately, I’ve spent at least two hours a week at the Emily L. Knapp museum in Brockport, the old Seymour Library that sits a block away from my childhood house on Spring Street. The building’s first-story once held the library and has since been turned into the village hall, but when I was little, it was the only place my parents would let me walk to on my own. The sidewalks on Park Ave were uneven tiles, and I remember looking down nearly the entire way to be sure I wouldn’t trip. When I arrived at the building, I would find the same librarian, a woman with a long straight ponytail hanging at least to her lower back. Then, I would check out the same book nearly every visit: The Valley of the Ghosts, book with a strange corpse-like figure on the cover with anatomically correct breasts that made me slightly self-conscious to check the book out, but I suppose not self-conscious enough.

“It’s a book of ghost stories,” I’d tell my mom when she looked at me funny.

So, every Wednesday for the past couple months, I’ve gone to this museum, the richest resource I’ve found for the anecdotes of Brockport’s village, and carefully turned page after large page of musty old newspapers bound together by year. There, a committee of researchers, archivists, historians, or citizens preserve these papers. They alert me to topics in old newspapers or photographs that I might find “interesting,” they say and laugh a little, that it involves murder or death.

One day a committee member said, “Here, Sarah. Here’s a picture for you.” Across the Brockport train tracks lay the dead body of an unidentified man, and the look on his face was, as awful as it was, peaceful. I made a copy of the picture, which I nearly had to pry out of the clerk’s hands at the Walmart Photo Center after he argued that it might be copyrighted. He hid the photo away from my sons, who sat in the cart next to me.

“I will not reprint it,” I said. “I just want to look at it.”

I persisted, unlike myself. How could I write about something I couldn’t hold centimeters from my eyes, couldn’t prop up on a mini-metal easel on my desk to refer to (the stones piled up against the ties, the angle of his shoe, the way his face was restful, but his body was not)? How could I write about what I couldn’t fold into origami or rip to smithereens if I wanted to?

I had to have a hard copy, I just could not look at it on my cell phone, where the image of the photograph was stored.

The word “microfilm” intimidates me because I’d rather read something I can touch. For example, I printed every article about Idaho, the dog charged with murder, from the Brockport Republic’s internet database before I could begin the story. I wanted to turn pages.

A lot of the stories I research for my fiction come from scrapbooks–the collection of news-clippings that Raymond Tuttle, one prominent resident, clipped with scissors and glued into a notebook with stitched binding. A layer of what the Brockport resident found notable or quirky. This is my favorite way to research, it’s almost as if he’s pointing these stories out, calling on the residents to tell them. It is a built-in filter, so I do not cower away from the years of newspapers bound in volumes, or feel incompetent in the face of boundless years captured on the internet.

One Wednesday at the museum, I sat down and asked the village historian, Jackie Morris, for more information on the houses that were razed or moved to expand the campus in the 1940s or 50s. We sat for a little while, talking about the families whose homes were moved or dropped to the ground, and when I moved a newspaper or two that had collected in front of me, I found a random scrapbook page, the clipping of a Brockport Republic article with a dotted line around the campus, denoting the space where the razing would occur, showing the houses that were scheduled to be moved.

“Oh my god,” I said to Jackie. “Where did this come from?”

She said, giggling, “I told you, sometimes Seymour likes to help us out up here. Sometimes he gives us what we’re looking for.”

There is a pile of The Stylus, Brockport’s student-run newspaper, on my desk, and I recognize some of its writers to be my current or former students.

My mother brings a copy of the university paper home to my father every week, and she prods me, too, when she finds an article especially interesting–this week, she made sure I read the article about a disgruntled student who’d been expelled and brought a rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition to the SUNY Brockport campus one year ago, who was arrested before any tragedy occurred, and while I read the story in terror, my heart thumping, I was thankful that this one-year-later-article was all that came of it. Long after I stopped reading, I was still transfixed in that time, stuck wondering what the campus looked like that day, imagining the exchange between the expelled student and the officer. And the students, I thought most about the students, the how, the why and the who of the community on that day.

This semester, in the ten or so awkward minutes before class begins, I mention stories to my students that, with time, have become just plain interesting, but at one time, were much more. They are captivated by details like a pile of 10,000 tomatoes in the parking lot of the Cold Storage, the horror of the dead man on the train tracks, instances like a dog on trial for murder, and, with all their intrigue, I hope it’s proof that this tangible “rag,” this ghost of an era and all that it stands for, is not on its way out.


On Sipping the Whiskey

MFA Adventures

I have one workable day before I have to send my third packet off to my MFA Adviser.  This day is a heavy research day.

Here’s the to-do list:

Image1. String a clothesline in my backyard, among the non-stop cricket chirps of early fall.

2. Hang a bin-ful of wet laundry from the line.

3. Repeat step 2, thinking about a loss I’ve suffered.  This part, I know, will bend my mind in places it hasn’t bent before.  Also, the crickets will haunt me long after I’ve come inside.

4.  Sip whiskey from a bottle I wouldn’t normally touch.  Blech.  I will take note of the burn that I can anticipate, but most importantly, make note of the what I don’t anticipate.

5.  Smoke a cigarette, alone, that I’ve bummed off my mother.  I will struggle to light it with a match, cupping it the way I’ve always seen people do, but I bet it will be harder than it looks.  It will take more than one try.  I will feel uncool, but I will probably feel many other things I wasn’t expecting.

I’m excited to see how these projects impact the piece I’m writing.  It’s not a thing I’ve thought to do before, but I think it will improve the “physicality,” the presence of my writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

My next field trip: to the abandoned cemetery in Brockport.  Just in time for Halloween.


for Michael

Bridge Up

Bridge Up (Photo credit: ECV-OnTheRoad)

On Monday, I sent in my second packet of MFA work, including a short story about a boy, set in the 1930’s, who was drowned in the canal by a dog.  I can’t make this stuff up—this premise, it was born from a newspaper headline—an instance of tragedy in Brockport’s history.

On Monday, I went to my parents’ house after dropping the packet behind the royal blue postal door, so blue I trusted the envelope would make it to my advisor.  I sipped at a cup of Mulligatawny with my mother before I was to head off to pick up my two boys from my in-laws, who take care of them during most days that I work.

Before long, the house was crumbling beneath news of my cousin’s death.  He had drowned in the canal that afternoon after wandering away from school.

Since, I have only been able to think about him.  I haven’t seen him in years.  He and his brother were both developmentally disabled, and though I know one from the other only by the shades of their hair and their ages, I knew nothing of them as people.  And now.

Everything I know about him is from a news report.  I can tell you this: he was at a school for special needs a town over that also bordered the canal.  It had been his first day of school.  His first bus-ride at 20 years old, to a school on the canal, a quaint school in a quaint village on a sweet blue-bell sunny day.  And now.

That night, the news reporter who visited my parents’ house to get the story, apologized to me for my loss because the people he should have apologized to were so stricken that they could hardly breathe let alone hear a thing between their sobs.

I told the reporter it was okay.  That I wasn’t close to him.  But it wasn’t okay for any of us.  Not even the people who watched the news.  And it wasn’t okay for his parents.

My father talked to the news reporters on the deck he built when I was five and had just moved to our home.  He told them he wouldn’t want to appear on camera and that my mother, for sure, would not want to be on camera.  The reporters scribbled on pads the way my students do when responding to a prompt—chasing words with their pencils as though they were running away.  I know the feeling.

The first reports had my cousin walking out of the building towards the canal, the officers investigating whether the accident was intentional.

My cousin was twenty, but with the capabilities of a five-year-old.  My son is three.  My cousin was twenty, and he was five.

The five o’clock news broadcasted that he had walked to the canal from his school, just yards away.  Also, that a passer-by pulled him out of the canal and tried to resuscitate him.  Also, that the aids found him about the same time, that they didn’t know how to administer CPR.  The man who helped him, a face now more vivid to me having seen him on television than my own cousin’s, said he couldn’t sleep with the thought of the boy’s face.  I couldn’t sleep either, but I can’t say I could picture his face.  I wish I could.

Truthfully, the premise of a boy drowning in the canal had kept me awake since I’d started writing that one story, which was a month ago.

Now, it is a different day.  The premise has changed.  The stakes are real.

My father and mother have told me three times when the funeral plans are.  They have told me my grandmother is as okay as she can be after hearing the news.  My grandfather has only suggested they make sure my grandmother is okay.

Last night, my father texted the family that he loves us all, that parents should not outlive their children, that he has felt this in the past few days.  We all thought we knew it before.

My doctor asked if I felt my story had “called it.”  If I could write about anything lighter.  I said, “yes.” And “no.”

I read the news reports about my cousin from all the local outlets, watched an interview of the man who tried to save my cousin.  My cousin, who had dark hair and was twenty and because he was my cousin, I was sad to admit that I didn’t know him more, that I couldn’t know him more, anymore.

In one report, it said he liked Transformers and wrestling.  So now I know that, too.

For the past few months, I have been studying newspapers from Brockport’s history, for information about a would-be serial killer, a dog drowning a boy in the canal, a plane crash, and tornado taking the life of one person and damaging just one house.  I have been reading true accounts and the paper has been barrier enough for me to keep it separate from my own life.

I was told when I was a student, and now I continue to tell my students, that a reader should be able to picture the words they read as they read it.  I read these reports again and again, but still, I cannot find my cousin’s face.

It’s true that “these things happen.”  It’s true that we turn to some sort of fact to make sense of things that are too close to believe, even.  Even now.  Even as they happen before our very eyes.

Donate if you can, but prayers are just as important.

http://www.giveforward.com/michaelvyrvoss