This amazing performance piece by student Madiha speaks for itself:
Acid attacks are devastating, debilitating, deadly, and yet they are often motivated by petty power plays, greed, or for no reason at all. Perhaps that’s why I wrote a play about acid attack victims – to try and honor their perseverance to live in a world when their physical identities are stolen, their faces destroyed, their skin-deep beauty obliterated.
CNN recently did a story about acid victims in India posing for a photo shoot. These women are brave & beautiful, and I’m inspired by their honesty and strength. Take a moment to let them inspire you, too.
In his book, Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski wrote about the first time he left Poland in 1958 (3 years after Stalin’s death) for his first journalistic assignment abroad:
“We flew in darkness; even inside the cabin the lights were barely shining. Suddenly, the tension which afflicts all parts of the plane when the engines are at full throttle started to lessen, the sound of the engines grew quieter and less urgent – we were approaching the end of our journey. Mario grabbed me by the arm and pointed out the window: “Look!”
I was dumbstruck.
Below me, the entire length and breadth of the blackness through which we were flying was now filled with light. It was an intense light, blinding, quivering, flickering. One had the impression of a liquid substance, like molten lava, glimmering down below, with a sparkling surface that pulsated with brightness, rising and falling, expanding and contracting. The entire luminous apparition was something alive, full of movement, vibration, energy.
It was the first time in my life I was seeing an illuminated city.”
On Friday, I rediscovered a secret world.
The world of the disabled.
I used to visit this world as a child. I am not disabled but my older sister, Lynley, was. With her as my guide, growing up by her side, we traveled back and forth between the abled and disabled worlds together, and I learned the differences, not only between the two places, but between Lynley and I.
In my world, when I walked through a mall, other people’s interest in me ranged from polite smiles, to casual glances, to disinterest.
In my sister’s world, the mall was not a place to walk and shop, it was a circus and she was the freak show. In the spotlight as soon as she stepped inside, she was subject to every single person’s stare. Men, women, children – they all stared. They stared long and hard. Far longer than they should. They followed us with their eyes, weighed us down with their scrutiny, and turned us into glass, transparent and ready to break.
Everywhere we went, I saw two worlds: hers and mine. Naturally, I thought everyone could see it – the dichotomy, the different experiences, the difficulties of the disenfranchised.
But not everyone has access to these secret worlds. Even I was only a visitor.
When Lynley died, she took that world with her. Like the lost city of Atlantis, it sank down into my past and I let it lie under the deep sea of my grief.
Now, many, many years later, I’ve written a book, Grace and the Guardian, with a disabled protagonist. It’s not a book about a disabled person, it’s a story whose heroine just happens to be disabled. I make the distinction because that’s how I always saw my sister – as a person, first; her disability always came second. I could never understand why others couldn’t see her that way, too.
But Grace and the Guardian is also about secret worlds – the world of the abled and disabled, the living and the dead, the evil and the good – and what happens when these volatile worlds combine.
On Friday, I sat in Starbucks and no one stared at me. I never thought I’d forget what it was like to walk with a disabled person – not even in her shoes, just walking beside her – but I did forget. It’s one thing to think about and even sympathize about. It’s an entirely different thing to experience.
I wrote about Lynley’s world to try and introduce others to it, and perhaps to remind myself of it, but mostly I wrote about it because I miss my sister’s world, and I miss Lynley most of all.
The FBI, in coordination with almost 300 local and state agencies, rescued 100+ children over the past 3 days thanks to Operation Cross Country, a nationwide initiative to help victims of human trafficking and underage prostitution.
One of the rescued women, Alexandria, talks about her experience and what she’s learned about survival and empowerment:
Operation Cross Country is a part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a joint program by the FBI, the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Since 2003, the Innocence Lost National Initiative has netted the rescue of more than 2,700 children. See Huff Post for more info.