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Posts tagged ‘pompeii’

The Anguish of Ancient Sites

Here I am, in my own home, watching television, and I paused in my work a moment to watch a documentary about Pompeii. It’s a newer analysis of the site, including extensive excavations and a new look at the figures that have been cast from the places where people died.

For anyone no familiar with the history of Pompeii beyond the fact that a volcano erupted and people died…some of those people were completely encased in the hot, burning ash of the pyroclastic flow. They were incinerated, leaving behind empty spots in the hardened ash. Those cavities were used as a mold, filled with plaster to take a casting of that person.

Those castings show the position of an actual person, their facial expressions the instant they died, reaching with an arm to crawl away and escape the inescapable. They are all bald and naked. Because hair and clothing would have burned off their bodies, probably before they died.

This is the moment of death for every single person a cast was made of.

Two of them seem to be clutched/huddled together. Who they were is the subject of much speculation. Were they a mother and daughter? Friends? Or did one fall and die and the other tripped to her own death beside the first and they were relative strangers? We can never know.

I had to turn to another station. I cannot ever watch this particular documentary.

Why?

Because I don’t enjoy feeling the anguish, the fear, the confusion, the desperation…helplessness and hopelessness…of a person in their last moment before being overtaken by a violent death. I don’t enjoy seeing through their eyes as it happens. It’s exhausting because I see it over and over and over again, and will for the rest of my life.

Being empathetic means being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and live their life for a moment. It means never forgetting those sensations because they’re imprinted on me like my own memories. They are my own memories now.

I will always remember what I felt and saw when I saw those two women who died next to one another. I don’t need to know their life story to see the story of their deaths.

The last moments of life for the people of Pompeii are beyond horrific.

But yeah…tell me again how tired you were after going to brunch with friends.