Memories – or how news that has nothing to do with me effects me…

Roughly 30 years ago my now-husband and I quit our jobs, sold most of our possessions, and set off on a year-long journey. Bookended with my now-sister-in-law’s wedding in the UK, and a return to their home on the day that she brought her one week old daughter home, our trip – on the very cheap – took us through Europe, with much time spent in Greece, and a few months through India and Nepal. While we were in Nepal, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Not long after we got back to India, Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal had a catastrophic leak. It was an interesting year for travel.

The news this morning of a burning ferry in the Adriatic, not yet in Ancona on its way from Patras brought back memories of that trip. On our journey outward, we’d traveled by ferry from Brindisi, Italy, to Patras, Greece. An awe-inspiring 20+ hours out at sea – having uncomfortable cheap seats, we spent a lot of time wandering the outer deck – captivated by the phosphorescence during the night, and especially by the stunning display of stars. But the open sea, especially at night, is also very disorienting – no lights, no land masses, no good way to get your bearings. But I never in a million years even considered something going wrong on the ship.

Although ‘our’ ferry, decades ago, ran between Brindisi and Patras, and this one between Ancona and Patras, we had, oddly enough, been in Numana, an Adriatic resort town near Ancona up until the day before our departure. So, Ancona, which is where the rail station was, brought another set of memories of the beautiful beach at Numana, especially in the off-season, and of the cobbled walk up into the quaint, old, town. I remember only two things about Numana clearly – that everyone seemed to assume we were German (I guess it was a popular resort for Germans at the time), and that the fixed price dinner at the cafe in town featured not-so-great chicken, and very nice wine, of a very low price.

Hearing Patras brought back many, very pleasant, memories also. We watched a storm come across the sea while we were at the quay, and in that moment, I fully understood where the myths came from. And the very long walk up interminable stairs to the church where they claim to have St. Andrew’s head.

This is not the first time that a tragedy somehow related to somewhere we’d been has brought back memories. Ferries sinking, planes hijacked, tsunami – something always seems to be happening somewhere that we’ve been. I suppose that the memory triggering is normal, and happens to most of us, but at the same time it seems wrong somehow.

Well, while I get to keep my happy memories, my heart goes out to those on the ship, and I hope they succeed in getting more people off the ship to safety.

And I hope they find the AirAsia plane that has gone missing so that their families have some resolution. I cannot really imaging what the waiting must be like.

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”

— Charles Dickens


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