The Anatomy Of Guilt

December 14th 2012

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I remember sitting in silence in my office chair when I heard the news.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 10.59.14 PM

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My heart

dropped.

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It normally did when these things happened. An unfortunate normality for NYC.

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But this incident.

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Was a little different.

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And the story goes like this:

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Ki-Suck Han woke up that morning. Put on his shoes. And a dress shirt too. Said good morning to his wife. And had an argument with her right before he left.

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Filled up a flask

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And walked  >>>>  out the door

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Unaware he would have one.more argument that day.

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It was shortly after 12:30 p.m. as Han arrived at the 49th street station in Midtown New York City.

49th-street-metro-entrance

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It was near Times Square, you see, where

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Many people came off the train >>>>

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<<< And many people waited for it

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Today included.

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Han sat at the subway station patiently waiting just like everyone else. His flask was empty, replacing stress in trade for inebriation. The station was relatively quiet. Hushed by whispered conversation and high-volume head phones.

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When suddenly.

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One more man walked into the station.

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He began talking to himself and

p – a – c – i – n – g

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The subway platform.  Terrifying bystanders, women and children that shared his common ground.

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Good intentions at heart, Han stepped forward to have a confrontation with the man

ManSubway

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Telling him that he was scaring everyone. And to please keep to himself.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 11.16.14 PM

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Han continued to try to calm the man. Telling him that it was okay. And that the train would be coming soon.

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Outraged by his continuing confrontation, the crazed man

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>>>> pushed Han into the subway tracks.

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Leaving  him to face his oncoming misfortune

Screaming for his life.

Just like everyone else

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Snap.

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A photo was a taken.

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One of the most controversial photos taken in our time.

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nyp9186022520-525x400

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Hitting newsstands instantaneously as curiosity and terror trickled into the city

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1354700749797.cached

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“Why didn’t you help him?!”

Asked the distraught public.

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“Where was the criminal?”

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“What did the people do?”

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“And what did they say?”

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“Why didn’t they help?”

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“Why didn’t you help either?”

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“What were you thinking?”

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“What weren’t you thinking?”

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Mere moments after Han was hit, killed and dragged

1

2

50 feet into the tracks

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A  2nd year med student tried to resuscitate him. But only retrieved a lack of luck.

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The train conductor had to be wheeled out in a wheel chair due to extreme trauma.

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And the people on the subway platform…

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Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 11.28.00 PM

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And I remember sitting in silence in my office chair when I heard the news.

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Physically upset…and by nature a bit curious. Incapable of understanding how no one did anything,

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Nothing at all.

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How they watched a man standing in the subway tracks for a video recorded counting of over 90 seconds.

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And nothing happened.

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Nothing at all.

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How the photographer claimed to flash his camera to stop the train conductor.

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And the train conductor said she couldn’t stop in due time

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And the bystanders couldn’t really say much at all because.

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They just watched an innocent man die.

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And to explain that feeling as it turns out,

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Is quite inexplicable.

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I remember taking my lunch break early that day and thinking about it a lot.

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How, to be confessionally honest, I’m terrified to know what I would have done in that situation.

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Only because

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I’m not so sure I would have done anything at all.

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Not because I didn’t care.

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Or that I’m a mean person.

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But rather because

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Being surprised by tragedy, mal intention and misfortune rock our soul more than anything ever will.

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How good things make us happy. And bad things make us sad.

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And the incidents that twist our hearts and make them drop, can formulate a numbing side of you…you weren’t even sure existed. And as it turns out

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Heroism and terror are more instinctual than they will ever be planned.

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So I thought about it BIG and I thought about it small.

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How guilt can range from breaking someone’s heart, to letting someone down, unraveling a promise and ending with an “if only I would have done this, then this would have never happened…” Fueled by seconds guesses, self disappointments and an inability to take our own sides.

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We feel guilty because we’re not entirely sure how else to feel.

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We feel guilty because the consequence feels so permanent.

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We feel guilty because our instantaneous self let our expected self down.

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We feel guilty because we forget what an imperfect job being a human is.

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We feel guilty because it almost feels wrong not to.

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So.

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You got in an argument – And you said something you regret

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You drank a little too much – And you did something unintentionally wrong.

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You lost someone you love – And it just feels like your fault

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You’re living the life you want – And you left someone behind to do it

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You did nothing wrong – But taking the blame is easier than giving it away

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And suddenly

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You find yourself in this place where you redefine who you are. And what you do.

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Forgetting that.

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Guilty actions don’t define who we are.

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Having the guilt at all does.

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Experimenting with our soul on what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad. Accepting that we can’t be on our most predicted behavior all the time.

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I won’t always say the right things

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And I most certainly won’t do them

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I’ll always miss the people I lost

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And I might just unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings just as I’m sure I have done before.

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I will never claim to always be right and to do the right things.

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But what I will claim is:

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1. I’m not always right

2. I’m not always wrong

3. I will take the blame when I should

4. And I’ll give it away when it makes sense

5. I’ll realize that I’m human

6. And I’ll realize that you are too

7. I will forgive myself

8. And I hope you do the same

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News reports came flooding in about Ki-Suck Han. His wife ballooning with regret and sadness of their exiting argument. The witnesses on the platform anchored by guilt of locking bravery in their back pocket while the photographer was increasingly hounded by news reporters claiming “He was just looking to make money!” Ignoring his begged explanation of the intentioned camera flashes.

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And eventually the family moved on. And so did the trains. The criminal was found and locked away. And The Q train at 49th street station was up and running just as smoothly as it ever had before.

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And I  guess if you think about it. If you really, really think about it. Any tragedy whether big or small. Whether in the form of loss or an argument. In the form of having elevated opportunity or the basic motion of hurting someone else’s feelings. Is incredibly frequent and incredibly uncomfortable.

But it makes you

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 <<<< take a few steps back

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Keep yourself in check. Shape up. And redefine your measure of self-satisfaction. Because the best thing you can ever do for yourself when you just feel so low. And you just feel so responsible. And you feel so wrong is

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Realizing when you need to right your wrongs

Without ever wronging your rights.

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And that, my friend. Is entirely your call.

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9 responses

  1. Such a tragedy. I hadn’t heard of that before because I don’t watch the news much, but that is so sad. Again, your writing gives me the chills for its poignancy. Why hasn’t Oprah offered to get you published!

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