In the final installment of his three-part exclusive on Essence.com Patrick D. Shaffer, author of the forthcoming book “Love Again” shows what it means to be broken and get back up again.
The building exploded, I heard a loud boom. My body was thrown about 15 feet before I could process what had actually happened. I was thrown high in the air; I felt the wind in my face as gravity quickly began to pull me towards the awaiting pavement. There was a searing pain in my back, I want to say as if I had been shot, but I can’t because I’ve never been shot. It felt as if someone punched me and the punch lifted me off the ground by its sheer force. In midair I concluded no one was going to catch me, I was going to hit the ground and hit it hard. There was nothing left to do but decide how I was going to hit the ground. I shifted my body so that I would fall on my left side. It matters how you fall. If a fall is the only thing left, how you can decide to fall foretells how well you will be able to stand again. I’m right handed, so I needed my right arm if I could only have one limb for the moment. I hit the ground positioning my left arm under me. First, my arm hit, then my head, luckily the arm hurt worse than my head. I lay on the ground, breathing into the dust, face pressed against the hard earth. The sun was shining on my face, my sweat mingled with the dirt. It took me a moment to realize I was still alive in spite of what I had just been through. Quickly I went through my mental diagnostic check. I knew my name, where I lived, where I was. So, I with much fear and trepidation began to move my body beginning with legs, I needed to make sure they were working. I made a fist, a little sore but all ten fingers were accounted for. I rolled over slowly; I was in so much pain. I looked at my clothes, it looked like I had tumbled down a dirt hill but I was alive and the sun was shining on my face. On my back I laid still and closed my eyes but the sun was so bright that I was baking slowly under its glare. The sun was shining on my face. It was quiet, I couldn’t hear anything, I would have thought that with such a big explosion someone would have rushed to help me but no one did. I was alone. But I was alive and the sun was shining on my face. In spite of what just happened, I knew I was going to be okay, I just didn’t know when okay would come, I didn’t know how okay would come. I decided being on the ground wasn’t so bad; we all get knocked to the ground sometimes. I wrestled with whether I wanted to walk again, if I walk again how do I know (through some circumstances I don’t control) if I will get knocked down again? For a while, I didn’t want to get up. I was hurting in ways that I couldn’t even understand; however the ground is no place to live. I decided that I only wanted to stay down long enough to get my strength back so I could get up and walk again. I took deep breaths while I was down there, on the ground. I breathed in things I shouldn’t have. I felt it on the inside but ultimately when I changed positions I would get all the bad contaminants out of my lungs and begin to exhale and inhale good things again. I wrestled with myself, in my head and heart about why did this happen to me until I reached a point where I stopped feeling sorry for myself and understood that if I made a choice to get up and move on I wouldn’t ask questions of myself or God that couldn’t be answered. I had to make a choice to outgrow elementary questions. God is not in our answers, God lives in our questions. If I asked bigger questions, I would experience a bigger God. If I were able to muster the tenacity to move on I would have more days, find new questions, and find new understandings of God. I sat up, dazed and confused. Turning around, I looked behind me as if by looking behind me I could tell what had actually happened or what was going to happen next but it was so much damage that I couldn’t make sense of it all. All I could do was look back amazed at what had happened, not noticing that I was alive and that whatever might have happened, I lived through it and the sun was shining on my face. I wished to myself that I could stopped being so stuck and struck by the amazement of my past but I couldn’t free myself alone. As I was looking at what had happened I saw someone moving in the rubble, there was a knowing about them as if they understood the what, how’s and why’s. They understood things about my past that I didn’t grasp, they rummaged around looking for something but I couldn’t tell what they were looking for. They stopped and with that look of satisfaction you have when you have found what you had been looking for, they stooped down and pulled a half piece of brick from the ground. They blew on it and dusted it off. The piece of brick was broken in pieces but they searched until they found the missing pieces to the brick and piece by piece, brick by brick they put the building back together again and while I watched them work, the sun was shining on my face… “Love Again” in stores fall 2010, get your copy!