The words I never said
There’s a storm over our street tonight. The trees outside my window push back against the wind. Listening to their hushed and tired sounds, I think they’re trying to comfort each other.
A close friend of mine lost her cousin in a car crash last year. It’s difficult, being far from the people you love when you know they’re grieving. It doesn’t matter how many words you use, an email is nothing compared to the comfort of a hand on a shoulder, the physical transfer of sympathy or of strength. The post she wrote after the funeral is raw and warm and wonderful. Reading it, what struck me most was how the acknowledgement of strangers, even in the tiniest gestures, meant the world to her in difficult times. There was comfort in solidarity. In the knowledge that everyone suffers. That everyone aches and everyone understands.
Yet for all my newfound insights, I couldn’t post a word on the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre. The internet was already alive with good intentions. Messages of hope, of strength. It felt like there weren’t enough synonyms for goodwill to spare. As the weekend unfolded, I watched writers around the world add their voices to the fire. It was important, as it always will be, that they let the people grieving know: we suffer. We ache. We understand.
I wasn’t in New York, when the twin towers fell. I was walking along a quiet suburb in Dublin when the first text message came through from a friend in Manhattan. How much terror can you contain in 160 characters? I kept the message for weeks afterwards, because I was grateful for reminder that she hadn’t been injured.
So we debated last night, whether as a band we should stand up to be counted. Should we leave a message on our site – for the people still in New York, for the people who left New York, for the people who weren’t around to read the message themselves. But it felt like an intrusion. It felt – and I hope you’ll forgive me, I’m sure your intentions were good – fashionable. What on earth could we say? “Our friend sent us a text message. We’re sorry, we know you must have been sending text messages of your own.” So we stayed quiet, and watched other people say what we were all thinking.
I am and forever will be in awe of all writers. Of the good and the bad together. Writers are honest, with a will or a need to express. They string letters together like a lifeline. They want to reach out and pull people gasping to the surface. Yesterday, every message was suddenly a song and I like to think the people of New York felt strong and loved.
I’m not a writer, not in that way. I like to hold my thoughts close to myself. To wrap them in blankets to keep the edges intact, and the soft parts safe. So this isn’t so much a post of support as a gentle apology and an acknowledgement. I didn’t say my piece, but I thought it. I read the words of people who are closer to you than I am. Of people braver with their adjectives than I am. I honestly do hope your friends and family are safe. I hope they had the chance to send text messages of their own. And if we ever meet, I’ll put my hand on your shoulder. And you’ll know that I meant every word I never said.