The Cruelest Month

Fresh reminders come as suddenly as the original disaster, ringing in the middle of the night, or wafting though the air from a neighbor’s kitchen at dinnertime. We can almost sense one another bracing in unison against the announcement, “We interrupt this program . . . ” At those times, no explanation is needed. At other times, no explanation seems possible, although other people do sometimes learn to understand the distant expression that comes over our faces, out of the blue.

The smell of crushed tangerine leaves in the grocery store does it to me every time: it’s the lunar new year, and I’m a child again, wondering if my room is clean enough, thinking how strange it will feel to have citrus leaves from the garden floating in my holiday bath water. Then I come back through so many years to reality, a willful boy still fighting that bath, as though by resisting, I could keep it all–childhood, home, Mother, Father–from washing away.

It froze hard the winter before my parents died, unusual for the San Francisco Bay area killing a great many trees, including a few in our back yard. By June, it became clear we had to cut them down, leaving the yard quite bare. We planted some saplings, and my mother went out and bought a garden umbrella–white with a black embroidered border–for a bit of extra shade and privacy. When my father saw the umbrella, the blood drained from his face, which turned as white as the canvas. She had no way of knowing that it would remind him of a Chinese funeral procession.

All over the Berkeley Hills, in Wildcat and Strawberry Canyons, you can find hundreds of lopsided Eucalyptus trees, forty or fifty feet tall, that have regrown from the stumps that were left that year. The skylines of my childhood vanished in one season, and they haven’t recovered. Each year, as soon as the rains let up, I like to put on my mud boots and get lost along the trails to see what’s new, and how the rest of the world is digging out of the winter’s debris.

РEric V. Siu lost his father Ren̩, 45, his mother Barbara, 43, and three young cousins on Pan Am 816, Pap̩et̩, Tahiti, July 22, 1973

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Below are some of the air disasters that we have responded to:
Private Plane - 9/26/12
Rockingham County, VA
Private Plane - 2/27/11
Abu Dhabi
Private Plane - 12/22/10
Barrington, NY
Private Plane - 7/17/10
South Portland, ME
Air India Express 812 - 5/22/10
Mangalore, India
Afriqiyah Airways 8U771- 5/12/10
Tripoli, Libya
Ethiopian Airlines 409 - 1/25/10
Off of Na'ameh, Lebanon
Air France Flight 447 - 6/1/09
Atlantic Ocean
Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 - 2/25/09
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Continental Flight 3407 - 2/12/09
Clarence Center, NY
US Airways Flight 1549 - 1/15/09
Hudson River, NY
Aeroflot Flight 821 - 9/14/08
Perm, Russia
Spanair JK 5022 - 8/20/08
Madrid, Spain
TAM Airways JJ 3054 - 7/17/07
São Paulo, Brazil
Comair Flight 5191 - 8/27/06
Lexington, KY
Airbus A320-211 - 5/3/06
Off Sochi, Russia
Bellview Airlines - 10/23/05
Nigeria
West Caribbean Airways 708 - 8/16/05
Machiques, Venezuela
Air France Flight 358 - 8/2/05
Ontario, Canada
Kam Air Flight 904 - 2/3/05
Pamir Mountains, Afghanistan
Corporate Airlines 5966 - 10/19/04
Pettis Township, MO
Kish Airlines Flight 1770 - 2/10/04
United Arab Emirates
Georgian Express Flight 126 - 1/17/04
Ontario, Canada
Flash Airlines 604 - 1/3/04

Red Sea

Turkish Airlines 634 - 1/8/03

Diyarbakır Airport, Turkey

US Airways Express/Air Midwest Flight 5481 - 1/8/03

Charlotte, NC

American Flight 587 - 11/12/01

Queens, NY

The events of September 11, 2001

Private Plane - 12/3/00
Milltown, WI
Singapore Airlines 006 - 10/31/00

Chiang Kai-shek Internat'l Airport

Gulf Air Bus A320 - 8/23/00

Persian Gulf, Bahrain

Air France Concorde 4590 - 7/25/00

Gonesse, France

Alaska Airlines 261 - 1/31/00

Pacific Ocean

Egypt Air 990 - 10/31/99

Atlantic Ocean

American Airlines 1420 - 6/1/99

Little Rock, AR

Swissair 111 - 9/2/98

Atlantic Ocean

Private Plane - 8/4/98
Phillips, WI
TWA 800 - 7/17/96

US Air 427 9/8/94

Allegheny County, PA

Long Island, NY

Pan Am 103 - 12/21/88

Lockerbie, Scotland

TWA/United Airlines - Mid-Air Collision- 12/16/1960
Brooklyn & Staten Island, NY
and hundreds of other private, commercial and military air disasters

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