Two people laughed, two people cried, most people were silent. I will always remember, I cannot forget.
Beautiful. That was what I had thought of this place before it happened. When we arrived, this place had seemed to glimmer in every cubby hole, in every innocent corner shop, in every building; in everything there was life. Now, I can only dream of this, now it feels like all I can do is dream. What had we done to deserve such a cruel and unforgiving massacre of everything we had ever known and of people we had known?
Friends, family, strangers, new opportunities and almost everything else were all ripped to shreds in the blink of an eye. But why? The only things left of them now are memories and the crumbling foundations of a previous lifetime which seems so far away now.
After it happened, I just stood there. For what felt like hours I watched as people came running frantically around street corners, searching, in desperation for some shard of their previous lifetime. Although I had some hope that life would go on as it was before I knew, or at least I thought I knew, that life would never be the same again: never again would I eat Christmas dinner with my family; never again would I melt marshmallows around a camp fire with them; never again would my parents shout at me for being late; never again would I wrestle with my brothers in the autumn leaves over our beloved New York Giants football and never again would I see my family.
In the end I forced myself to move and I searched. Even though the terrible truth of my family’s deaths was already rising steadily through my body I still searched until I could no longer stay awake. My feet ached, my throat was dry, my head was pounding but I refused to give in without a fight. It was like a giant game of hide and seek, but only this time my younger siblings were the masters of hiding and I became the frustrated brother who would never find the others until they gave up; but this time they didn’t come out when I called out to them and eventually I accepted the signs that my family would never come out and that I would never find them. Gone but not forgotten.
After this I walked away from the city, with a hope that the more I walked the more I would forget and the better I would feel. Neither happened.
After a lonely night of little sleep spent on a crumbling metal chair, I thought about my future. For a while I contemplated whether I wanted to live a new life, or even at times a life at all, but then I remembered my family and what they would want: gone but not forgotten. Eventually I dragged myself out of my grave and using every ounce of strength that I had left I began to clumsily navigate my way forwards with no real ideas of where to, but forwards.
Still not sure of my intentions, I continued on my path until I came to a place that seemed vaguely recognisable. I stopped and looked around. What was this place? Although it appeared to be no different to the surrounding dumping ground there was something about this place that seemed familiar. Questions began to cloud my already fogged mind. What was it? Where was I? What had this been? What had this been to me?
I crouched down and looked around some more, I took in a deep breath of air in the hope it would bring something back. Nothing. Anyone watching me would have thought I had gone mad but I did not care, this was the first place I had been that seemed to connect me in some way to my past and I would not let go easily.
Taking a few slightly more purposeful steps forward I noticed something. Something that shocked me. Something that made me question if I was going mad. Something that surely, could not possibly be real.
A peeling street sign which read Church Street.
I scanned beyond the sign and immediately noticed something that seemed to spark a million memories at once. A stubborn, red mailbox. Our red mailbox. This could only mean one thing.
That this place I was standing in. Was not just a place, it was a street, but not just any street. It was my street. Where my house was.