A Prayer in the Aftermath of Lac-Mégantic

Meditation by Rev. Diane Rollert, 12 June 2013

Sometimes we say this thing to each other,
half laughing,
“Enjoy life while you can. 
You never know
what might happen next.” 
But today the joke falls flat,
for now we know:

You could go into town on a peaceful summer’s eve,
to sing and celebrate in a local café,
in a beautiful, historic town,
where nothing sinister ever happens,
and in an instant
you could be lost forever
to your children,
to your father and mother, 
to your sisters and brothers,
to your friends and your co-workers.

You could be sleeping 
with your son breathing softly in the next room,
and everything you love,
everything you posses,
is yours for one last moment --
only you don’t know it --
as a runaway train comes
hurtling down the hill,
flying off the track,
breaking into a horrible,
orange rage of fire, 
exploding, and roaring,
chasing down the innocent
who have gone inside for one last hug,
one last conversation,
one last drink,
while an inferno beyond devastation
overtakes the sleepers
who could never have woken in time.

Every single thing and being in its path --
history, identity, everything  --
erased and returned to ashes. 

How is anything reasonable 
when so much is needlessly lost?
The orphans, the heartbroken,
the ones who have survived and still wait,
day after day for word of the disparus.
50 now confirmed gone,
but there is nothing left to touch,
only prayers and cries,
to wake up from a nightmare that is no dream,
that is real,
that is numbness,
that is impossible to believe.

There are no answers to the random why
of who survives and who is lost. 
We wait to know the true story.
Is this our fault for what we consume?
For black gold that runs our lives,
for the way we wash our hands of control
and let bottom lines and red ink
determine the fate of the innocent?

To whom should we cry out?
We might seek solace in a distant God, 
or we might shake our fists at a cruel and heartless God
who takes away millions each day
for reasons we cannot comprehend or justify.
Or we might hold out our own hands before us,
and simply let our fingers curl into fists of frustration. 

But thank you, thank you,
to those who look down at their hands
and see agents of resurrection:
The hands that hold the hoses that tame the inferno,
the hands that hold the shovels, 
that dig through the remains seeking answers and closure, 
the hands that pull the pins 
between the burning train 
and the wagons still intact
to save the rest from more destruction. 

From whence comes my solace and my help?
I cannot say.
But on this day I give thanks
to the human hands that
undo the damage that other hands have done,
and I cry with the waiting ones who know
the emptiness of the loss
of those they love who will never come home. 

May we light candles
alone and together,
in memory,
in sympathy for Lac-Mégantic,
with a promise to say to ourselves
and to those who run the trains,
who guard the infrastructure,
who make the profits,
“Never again.”