by Deborah Rampona Oliver
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Joanne finished emptying the dishwasher (her second load of the day) and carried her coffee to the computer desk. Fifteen minutes until the kids’ bus arrived. Fifteen minutes to catch up on Face Book and press the pause button in her life. This part of the day, the time when school let out until bedtime, was always the hardest. Part of her kept expecting Jeremy to stride through the door, her white knight and the boys’ hero, to save her from the emptiness of his absence. Joanne logged on and posted her status. “It’s a good thing coffee is a bean, because I’m well on my way to drinking my five servings of vegetables today.”
She heard a computerized chime and saw an IM from Jeremy. “Please pray. I can’t talk about it, but it’s been a rough day. Turn on the news. Hug the boys and tell them daddy misses them.” Joanne quickly responded, “You got it sweetie. Anything I can do?”
The connection was lost and she was offered the opportunity to send him a message. Instead, she reached for the remote and pressed “on.” As the screen illuminated, Joanne saw a red ticker across the bottom of CNN’s screen. “BREAKING NEWS: IED kills four soldiers in Afghanistan.” A reporter with a spray on tan and beautiful porcelain veneers adopted an expression of concern as she gave a ‘report’ of the blast.
Joanne rolled her eyes, “As if you give a rip!” she muttered. Just then, her iphone buzzed with an incoming text: “Can I come over and hang out?” Her friend Jenny who had endured the same grueling deployments with her and knew the loneliness as well as anyone was on her way over. In the background, Joanne felt the bass reverberations of the school bus as it entered the neighborhood. She got up and went to the door. Their little home was right at an intersection and she always double checked before the boys crossed the road. They tumbled off the bus laughing and jostling one another in the daily race to reach home first. Joanne greeted the boys with a kiss and gave them permission to watch cartoons BEFORE they did homework; a rare treat indeed. They were off without a second look.
Joanne sat down at the computer again to log out when she noticed a new post on her wall. “Tell Jenny we’re SO SORRY about David!” Her stomach plunged and she immediately felt the world closing in on her, suffocating. Fear and disbelief prickled throughout her body! Nervously, Joanne focused on the news again. That idiot reporter had ‘scooped’ all of the other stations and was releasing the names of the soldiers killed by the IED! When David’s name left the glossed lips of the reporter, Joanne felt the urge to vomit.
Dear Jesus PLEASE let this be a mistake! Oh God, how could you let this happen? Knowing that other families in the battalion would be checking her status, Joanne quickly deleted their post and she changed her own status: “In consideration of our fallen soldiers and their precious families, please do not release or discuss personal information until official notification is made! She quickly checked Jenny’s wall as well. No condolences, yet.
All of a sudden, Joanne realized that social media had the capacity to make a person feel like the loneliest person in the world. Other people without the right to intrude were now privy to intimate details of her best friend’s life before she could even be properly informed! How could she protect Jenny when David’s death had already gone viral? Was the report even accurate?
A honk pierced the shock as Jenny pulled into the driveway. She stared at her friend’s beat up minivan and idly wondered if that reporter would get a raise; wondered if she’d go out and buy a Mercedes in triumph. Would she care about the impact of her story?
As Jenny approached the house laughing with her “Littles,”(that’s what Jenny always called her children) Joanne felt relief and guilt: relief that it wasn’t Jeremy who died and guilt because she was certain Jeremy was alive. She braced herself and whispered a prayer, “Dear Jesus, help me to be your hands and feet.” Joanne stuck a smile on her face that was every bit as plastic as the reporter's and braced herself, sincerely hoping that notifications would be made before the local news got hold of the story.
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