Heather Heyer's desk: life interrupted

ct-photo-gallery-heather-heyer-memorial-20170816-1-1024x576I read an article today about Heather Heyer, the woman killed last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a car hit her and others counterprotesting a rally of white nationalists.

As I did, wondering again how we got to this place as a country and how we’ll find our way through, one photo in particular stopped me. Not one you’d generally think would have that effect.

It was a photo of her desk at the law firm where she had worked. There were files. Lots of files, just like you’d expect on the desk of a paralegal helping many clients. And there were pieces of purple paper and sticky notes, which made sense once I read the article and learned that was her favorite color. There was also a big window with a view of a nice, typical sun-lit corporate setting.

But it was the other things that most struck me. The mug, with the handle of a spoon jutting out, looking washed and ready, like it was just waiting for the next morning round of coffee or tea. The scissors and small purse-like accessory that may have held those sticky notes.

And what looked like an open potato chip bag.

That potato chip bag. That’s the thing that did it.

Made me immediately think about how so many of us leave our desks at the end of the workday in a hurry. We have to get somewhere, home for dinner or meeting a friend for drinks, to our kid’s sporting event, or even just to work out. We take a quick look back as we leave and wonder for a second if we should stop and close that one thing up, put that other thing away, throw that one thing out.

But, then we think to ourselves, nah, we’ll get it the next morning, or if it’s Friday, we’ll take care of it after the weekend.

Anyone with a desk at work has been there. And, it doesn’t even have to be a desk. Anywhere we work, anywhere we are often, we leave, thinking, no scratch that, knowing we’ll be back. Actually, scratch knowing. It’s not even a thought. We will be back. Case closed.

But then comes life.

The other thing I noticed were the flowers. Several bunches of them. And I guessed that they were left by her grieving colleagues. I couldn’t imagine the sadness they felt as they placed them there.

And, finally, I thought about what would happen with her desk? How long will it stay the same? What will they do with the flowers when they die? Who will go through her stuff?

All very personal questions that are only for them.

That’s it. Simply reflections on a photo. On a life. On a last moment in which courage and cowardice met.

We leave our desks at the end of the day taking it for granted that we’ll be coming back.

But sometimes we’re not.




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