I came to know the people of Whisper through Reverend Smythe. He described a picturesque town, full of people you would expect to see portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting. Pansy Faye, Leroy, Ron, Elwyn and Billy Ray came back to life and for a moment and I found myself wishing I could turn back time.
Days slowly turned into weeks and the rescue equipment sounds became Whispers’ death rattle. When the earth movers’ bucket scooped up a pile of rubble, there was a high-pitched squeal, as if the town was screaming while it was being eviscerated.
A worker uncovered the crushed, striped pole that hung outside Leroy’s barber shop and tossed it into the back of a truck, already heavy laden with debris. A large shard of glass with the letter L painted in red, could only be from Lucy’s cafe.
As those remains were being discarded, there were no smells of aftershave or freshly baked cornbread. There was only the overpowering smell of death.
Reverend Smythe, clutching his Bible, was looking haggard and worn. It was clear that nobody in the town had survived. He was trying to put on a brave face and as any “God person” would do, hold on to his unwavering faith.
I had never really been touched by death. My parents were still alive and so were both sets of my grandparents. Aunts, uncles and cousins were still “kicking” as well.
I had heard about death and I had read about it. I had witnessed mourning and the outpouring of grief but one thing I never really bought into, was somebody trying to explain an untimely death with the bullshit rhetoric of “God must have needed another angel.”
My question was “just how many more angels did He need?” I wanted to know what happened to the ones He already had.
“God has a plan for each of us,” Reverend Smythe said. I was familiar with that phrase and had dismissed it as casually as if I had heard “to each his own.”
I asked Reverend Smythe, “was Gods’ plan to obliterate an entire town? Was His plan to take all those lives for no other reason than He could?”
I wanted to know why. Why this town? Why these people? Why that plane? Why those passengers?
Reverend Smythe told me that I was not to question God or His motives, nor was I to question who He chose to call home and when.
He said “we are sent here to leave a legacy. We may have a short visit or a long stay but each of us leaves a mark and the people of this town will leave an everlasting one. There is good in the world, son and I have to believe that these people were here to share that goodness, however brief. That is their legacy.”
I wasn’t sure I believed in what I considered to be senseless deaths under the guise of “legacies.” I was much more likely to believe in Karmic justice. I believed in “the sins of the father.” I believed in “an eye for an eye.” I believed in “what goes around, comes around.”
I also knew that innocent people were sometimes collateral damage when the universe went on a killing spree.
I knew about the people of Whisper but I knew nothing about the passengers on the plane. I obtained a list of their names and decided to delve into their lives.
I picked five random names. I wanted to weave a tapestry of these people and try to find a reason for the unraveling of the threads that made up their lives. I wanted to find some cosmic reason for their deaths.
What I would ultimately discover would be gut-wrenching, heart-breaking and would leave me torn between feeling justice had been served and questioning the very existence of a merciful God.
To be continued_______________