Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The day before the bombings in the Boston Marathon, I was reading through the book Escape From Camp 14. Every couple of hours, I would stop and check the time in North Korea. It's so and so hour. Prisoners in the political camps are waking up. They're in the fields. Someone is being beaten for falling behind at work. A child is dying from malnutrition. Kids are being punished for the deeds of their grandfathers. In the underground prison, someone is being tortured. Screaming. It's time to go to sleep. Guards patrol around. Every day is the same. Maybe there was an execution today.

I do that sometimes, when life sucks or it's one in the morning and I can't sleep. I close my eyes and I try to imagine what is happening in another country, through the eyes of another girl like me. My mind always drifts to places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Uganda, or Venezuela, or Mexico, or Syria, or Pakistan, or, recently, DPRK. With the latter, my stomach twists and turns because I want to reach out. I want to do something. But I can't--or more likely, I won't. And I'm left with these thoughts of, what if I was there? How much would be different? What would I fear, what would I love?

A sick twisted part of my idiotic childish self wishes DPRK would attack someplace so we could declare war. And invade. And get those people out of the camp. And win the day. Because that's how the world works, right?

When the bombings happen, all I heard about was testimonies of people. And I tried to imagine what it would have been like if I'd been there. Not running, maybe volunteering. Or cheering for people. Just another day.

And if I'd survived, how much would I have imaged all the alternatives. If I hadn't volunteered that day, if I hadn't gone walking down a particular street--all these things that no one can change and that was just one possibility of a thousand.

It hurts to imagine alternatives, but I guess it's human nature to do so. We always want to go back. We feel so helpless in the face of the present that we go crazy thinking of the past, or the world where everything was different.

I don't really have some deep thoughts or insight on what happened. I, like many, find hope in the fact that only one or a few people are responsible for the bombings, while many others were running to help those who were hurt. I won't ever lose my faith in humanity, I think.

Maybe I'll always try to hold onto hope, despite those inescapable "what ifs".

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.