This last Saturday was the AFSP Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. Run for the last dozen or so years, this is a fund- and awareness-raising event that, to date, has raised over $23M for research.
I found out about it relatively recently, because a co-worker told me he was
flying in from California to walk. He let me know, and I was pleased to be able
to pick him up at National, see him off at the start of the event, and then have lunch
with him today and drop him back at the airport to fly home. (I would have
liked to be there at the end of the event, but driving back into DC at 4AM
somehow didn’t make my calendar!)
Of course the entire exercise was evocative of Katie.
It started in an unexpected way: I haven’t been on the DCA property in
years—perhaps since 2006, when my father died, and I picked my sister up
there—although it used to be our airport of choice, back when we worked in
South Arlington. But what struck me most was driving onto the property
and remembering when Katie was four, and we drove there to pick up her aunt and
cousin, who had flown in from Rochester. Katie had been learning to read
(starting with The Bob Books),
and as we crawled through the construction (this was while they were building
the new terminal, so the entire place was a mess), she suddenly asked, “Why
does that say ‘cat’?” and pointed to a piece of construction equipment. I
remember looking at Anita and saying something like “Wow, that’s when you know she can read—when she’s reading without even meaning to!”
Before The Overnight (as it’s called) opening ceremony, all 2,000+
participants milled around on the George Washington University “Yard”, a big green
space described as “the historic heart of GWU”. I got lucky and ran into my
friend without any follies of trying to describe our locations to each other by
text or phone, and we chatted while we waited for the festivities to begin.
I found it to be quite the rollercoaster: folks were socializing and
chatting happily, but then someone would walk by and I’d see one or more names on their
T-shirt, and it would hit me: all of these people have suffered due to suicide.
All of them had lost someone they cared about—in more than one case, several
someones. I resist using cliché words like “unimaginable”—but when you look at
a sea of people and realize that they’ve all gone through a similar odyssey, it’s
pretty hard to get your head around the idea. Humbling.
Anyway, my friend survived: he has some nice blisters on his feet, but he
finished the walk. And next year, maybe I’ll join him.
The Overnight: www.theovernight.org/