August 01, 2005

Watch that hill

While I'm standing there speaking to people, or just watching the work, a RAF man comes up and says to us all: Watch the hillside, OK? With the rain it has become loose, and it might come down at any time.

I turn to look. The hill rises sheer above me, going probably 100 feet up. Piled a third of the way up are the massive boulders from the Tuesday landslide, on top of which the excavators are working. The edge at the top is lined with huts, some actually overhanging the lip. Huts like that came down when the hill collapsed, and today I can see people up there, some looking down at us and some just walking about.

Suddenly, I notice an enormous vertical crack in the face of the hill. For a few agonized seconds, I wonder: was it there before? Or did it just happen and if so shouldn't I run? Shouldn't we all run?

It isn't hard to put the crack out of my mind. After all, what can anyone here possibly do about the RAF man's warning? "Watch the hillside", sure. But if it starts to collapse, especially with the mud all around us, how will we escape? A fresh collapse is the risk everyone -- the people who live up there and all around, the cops and rescue workers, the volunteers -- takes in this place. Watch the hillside, sure, but what does that mean, and where's the sense in worrying about it anyway?

And I can't help thinking, this is the attitude that people who live here must have. This is a place to stay in this often cruel city of eternal dreams. Where's the sense in worrying that an occasional landslide might wash those dreams away?

1 comment:

Tom said...

Thank you, very interesting!