I first got the news of the Dana Airlines plane crash on my BB yesterday. The only group I belong to is one of writing nerdz with ears to the ground, eyes on the prize and hands always on their pens. Or in recent times, their blackberries, cameras and laptops. One of the members, Chiagozie Nwonwu, lived close to the crash site and before long, he wrote that he was on his way there.
Later that evening, I logged onto my laptop and visited a few media sites where I usually get my Nigerian news fix and the images overwhelmed me. All the reportage seemed to agree that there were no survivors. In one of the pictures, I saw a burnt figure that looked like a dead person, it probably was. It just broke my heart.
I was somewhat upset at those who were busy taking pictures, but, I later reasoned to myself that they are largely ignorant and probably meant no harm. I know for sure there's not a lot of public information on how to deal at scenes of disaster and emergency in Nigeria.
Some of these people are also coping with their own shock at witnessing such a gruesome scene. Maybe taking pictures was their own way of dealing with the trauma, of removing themselves, their psyche so to say, from the scene and what had happened. Maybe by processing the scene through inanimate devices, they could sublimate the pain of being powerless bystanders by being active eyewitnesses. So they do not forget.
But we do forget. And quickly too.
I woke up this morning, and while some blogs and newspapers are still reporting on the incident, some have moved on. How can we move on so easily after a tragedy like this? Have we already finished processing the loss, the pain, the guilt, the anger? Can we not think of ways we can help those affected, the victim's families, the crash site wounded and victims of property loss or damage?
I was a bit mollified when I saw more pictures of people that helped the Fire Service, what there is of it anyway, hoist pipes and try to douse the flames with water in buckets. I was glad that nearby construction sites gave up their equipment so the dead could be retrieved and their physical bodies given some measure of rest.
But still, a part of me remained angry. I was angry at the greed of the Dana Airlines with news that the same plane had several incidents in the past month, including developing a major mechanical fault the day before the accident. I was angry that the crew did not stand their ground not to fly the plane till it was fully repaired. I was angry at the ineptitude of government, from the aviation authorities, to emergency management, and to the presidency.
I was also angry at myself. Yes, I was angry that I wasn't there on ground, to give of the strength of my arms. And surely, there's more I can do than just send some money to the Red Cross? Other than giving money and material things to victims and survivors, were there other ways we could recover as a community? Was there a way as a writer and blogger I could contribute to this healing process?
I know that I gave Atala a hug and kiss more special than our usual as he left for work this morning. Something that rarely occurs to me did as we said goodbye. What if this is the last time I see him?
After he left and I began my daily chores before settling down to work, I wondered again how easily and quickly we forget and move on. Deaths by suicide bombers, road death traps, armed robbery, etc. And we always forget. But I didn't want to forget. Something this time was sticking in my craw. I remembered that there is a way to vent off emotions at the same time as keep them in our memory. Writing. So I decided to blog about my feelings. And as I sat down to write, it struck me. I could do more.
Through this blog and through Naija Stories, I could get even more people to write. So that we do not forget. So that even when time passes, we can always remember.
I sent him a message and during our call, Atala gave me a word for it. Memorialization. After our conversation, I looked up the meaning. To commemorate, To be mindful of, To remind, To honor or keep alive the memory of. By then, the germ of my idea became full blown. Yes, Yes, and Yes!
I have always loved to read, and not long after, I began to write. My earliest writing was of some children having adventures in a rural countryside. They were to help me remember the amazing time I spent each Christmas in Asaba with my family. I am no more a diarist because with age came the fear that they would fall into the wrong hands. But I believe strongly in telling our own stories. That is one of the major reasons behind going ahead to publish my books and to set up Naija Stories. Nobody can tell our stories better than us.
In the case of the Dana Plane Crash, I want to see the writers among us take this tragedy and turn it into something that we can all connect with. A story can be a healing outlet as we attempt to make sense of trauma. Whether as fiction or non-fiction, we can deal with our emotions, report on how we can do better next time or even give life back to the dead by recreating their stories.
And so, I am calling for an mixed anthology that will commemorate Dana Airlines Flight 9J-992 from Abuja to Lagos, Sunday June 3, 2012.
Send in Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry from now till the end of June to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register on naijastories.com and post your entries directly to the site. Selected Stories will be published in an anthology by the end of July 2012. While we will consider selling the anthology and donating the proceeds to Charity, for now we envision putting it up for free downloads.
My hope is that the stories collected will help us as people and a community to deal with this. The anthology will not be a collection of gruesome reports or stories but a celebration of life. Life is Precious. Stories are Forever.
Let us not forget.
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