The War Room

Daily Prompt: Conflicted

by michelle w. on November 2, 2013

You’re in the middle of a terrible argument, and everyone turns to you to help resolve it. How do you respond? How do you react to conflict?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us a CONFLICT


“What do you mean you don’t know?! How can you not know?! This is my child we’re talking about! My baby! How the fuck can you not know?!”

I watched from the corner of the room as the distressed parents take their anger, frustration and helplessness out at my co-workers. I can’t say that I’ve gone through what they’re going through right now and relate but I think , had I been in their shoes I would probably react similarly.

There’s no amount of comfort you can give, or consolation you can provide that would probably ease the pain of what they’re going through. Watching their anguished faces matched by the increase in the volume of their yelling would make any neophyte buckle under the pressure.  But then again, even old-timers get their hard shells pierced every time children are involved.

“How can you just stand there and do nothing! You’re the ones who should know what to do! You’re the ones who are trained for this! Do something! For fuck’s sake do something… Please…Do something.” 

Whenever a father breaks, it will eat at you. Mothers are usually the ones given to tears while fathers threaten to sue you, blame you, or physically hurt you. That’s easier to deal with because it’s what’s expected. Mothers will cry and fathers will be there to hold them and try to calm them down and threaten to rain down hell fire on you when you don’t get things done. But when fathers break, your heart breaks along with theirs because they’re supposed to be the strong ones. They’re supposed to be the heroes, the reasons why we believe that there are no monsters hiding in our closets or under our beds, why Santa Claus does exist and why the good guys always win.

Whenever fathers break you start to worry that the world might not be fair after all. That injustice does happen and that evil tends to win out at the end of the day.

Whenever fathers break, you tend to break along with them.

My colleague stares at me and I take it as my cue to step in.

“Sir, we’re doing everything that we can with what we have. We just have to trust that the people we have working on the ground will get everyone out and to safety. I know that staying in this room with us, watching us wait for the same news that you’re waiting for only makes the whole situation worse than it already is. But believe me when I tell you, that we’re not just standing idly by and waiting for the time to pass.”

Inwardly, I cursed myself for saying the things that I said, knowing it doesn’t help them at all.  Trying to pacify someone whose loved ones are in immediate danger is never an easy thing. Trying to pacify a father when their prepubescent child is in mortal peril? You have better luck wrestling a grizzly bear for a piece of salmon.

I watched as the mother took her husband’s hand and pulled him away. From their seat, I saw her hold him as he caved and dissolved into tears. And then, with a strength that I knew was beyond her, rocked him slowly and ran her hand across his back. Her head was tilted towards the ceiling as she fought back her own tears and held back her own fears.  I watched him lean into her for support and I watched her carry him through their ordeal.

I could have  stayed there rooted in my spot, watching them, had I not my own job to do. So I walked back to my desk and called on my partner. The clock was winding down and we were all waiting for the call that signaled the end of this gruesome day.

An hour and a half later the phone rang and I rushed to pick it up. The voice on the other end of the line was the leader of the team sent to resolve the situation that stirred up hours ago. Everyone was out, although not without casualties. One of our own went down, protecting someone else. I had to force myself not to hurt, not to react in front of everyone when I heard his name. He was an old friend – someone whose life was cut short by a maniac who wanted to hurt others. I thought of his family, of the wife he left behind and the two little girls who will grow up never knowing what kind of a father they had.

Going back to the parents, I delivered the news and I saw the relief in their faces at knowing that the ordeal was over. I shook their hands and brushed off their apologies, telling them that it was a reaction no one would begrudge them for having.

The reunion of the families tore at me. The day was over and the damage was done. While their families are whole once again, there is no denying the fact that their lives had changed, their children’s innocence gone in the blink of an eye. Yes, the day was over but for better or for worse, nothing was ever going to be the same for their families again.


Photo Courtesy of: Anjali Gupta

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