“I can’t imagine.”
It’s a well-worn comment most of us have fallen back on when we hear about an awful event.
She lost her baby.
His wife was killed.
The whole family died.
“I simply can’t imagine what that would be like/what I’d do/how I’d feel.”
In the wake of the events in Las Vegas last Sunday, I’m sure the phrase was oft repeated.
But not by me. Because I can imagine. If I let my mind travel to the country music festival last weekend, I can easily picture the happy throngs in cowboy hats and cowboy boots. I can hear the music, and the weather on Sunday was early-fall perfect.
I can imagine hearing the pop-pop-pop. I can imagine wondering whether it was a problem with the speakers or—fireworks, perhaps? I can imagine the moments when realization dawned.
I can imagine the terror, the panic, the screams, the blood. If I put my mind to it, I can feel it, smell it, hear it. If I had to—if I wanted to—I could write a realistic description of it all right now.
So could anyone who writes fiction. That’s the job.
But I don’t want to talk about those of us who work at making things up. I want to talk about all of us. When we say, “I can’t imagine,” what we’re really saying is, “I don’t want to imagine.” Because it’s horrible and terrifying and way too close to home. Better to fend off imagination, pretend we don’t even have it.
I don’t know about everyone, but I can’t turn my imagination off. I have thought of other things in the days since Sunday, but the moment my mind is not engaged with a task, it travels immediately to the victims, the survivors, the families, the responders, the caregivers, the helpers, and then back to the scene. The terrible, terrifying hideous scene that has invaded my dreams and still keeps me shaken.
All around me, the people of Las Vegas have mobilized to help, heal, and comfort the victims of Sunday’s rampage. They act. They give. They do. They unite us with #VegasStrong.
As I grieve for all those suffering, I am grateful for the unique strengths of my sweet adopted hometown. I have always appreciated the community here, but I have never seen it as united as it has been the last few days. And that sets my imagination to work in a new direction. Could Las Vegas lead the way toward workable reforms and new practices that will help prevent carnage like that wreaked last Sunday?
I can’t imagine another city more likely to succeed.