When the South's Snowmageddon Meets the Egyptian Revolution

My Twitter feed is an eclectic hodgepodge. There will be 140 characters worth of organizing ideas from Real Simple, followed by a thoughtful question about women and faith from Rachel Held Evans, and then there's the Arabic-language update with news from Cairo. In a way, it's evidence of the many directions my life has taken in the last four years. And as Twitter reminded me a few days ago, I just passed my four-year "Twitterversary." 

 Stephen while stuck on an icy Hwy 280 for four hours. 

Stephen while stuck on an icy Hwy 280 for four hours. 

Late-January is full of odd anniversaries for me. Yesterday, Facebook was abuzz with recollections of the South's Snowmageddon from a year before. People across the region were hit by a surprise snow and ice storm that left them either stuck in their cars or abandoning them and walking home. Kids and teachers couldn't leave school. I had the good fortune of only making a four-hour round trip drive to Tuscaloosa, while Stephen's casual drive to Home Depot turned into a 12-hour trek across town that included walking six-miles in the ice. I have not gone a week in the last year without hearing someone regaling their experiences during that storm, or relating my own. 

But something strange occurred to me during those frozen, snowed-in days last January. They marked three years since I was also stuck at home, but this time for a completely different reason.  On January 25, 2011, the Egyptian Revolution started, and like so many other millions, I was there.  With tight curfews and no police force, people generally stayed close to home. That's when I joined Twitter. It had become the most effective way to track the news—at least until Mubarak turned off the internet. Three years later, I found myself again feeling simultaneously cut off and exhilarated. Yet in January 2014 I ultimately felt safe and secure, just a little bit cold. In Cairo, things were much less certain, and while I did not feel I was directly in harm's way, our circumstances were defined by a lack of security.

 Me after evacuating Cairo in early February, and making my way to Cambridge, UK A cozy seat at a warm pub with a good friend was exactly what I needed. Photo by Galina Mardilovich. 

Me after evacuating Cairo in early February, and making my way to Cambridge, UK A cozy seat at a warm pub with a good friend was exactly what I needed. Photo by Galina Mardilovich. 

As people have continued to recount their Snowmageddon experiences for the last year, there has been a cathartic quality to all of it. People were traumatized. And trauma leaves a deep psychological mark. It has to be expunged, and for me and the Southerners around me that meant talking about it. 

It would have been awkward to bring up in those conversations how privileged we are to be able to talk and laugh about our experiences. To be able to recount our trauma and breath a large sigh of relief with smiles on our face at the end.

Not everyone gets to recall their trauma that way. Not everyone gets such quick relief. For those most hopeful in Tahrir Square in 2011, their dreams of democracy and real change have been largely dissolved by a new military dictatorship. 

It was 50˚F in Birmingham one year after Snowmageddon. It was literally a warm balm on the storm's temporary wounds. At the same time, Egypt's revolution is being recalled with images of the new leadership's most recent victims—Shaima Al-Shabbagh brutal shooting in the midst of a peaceful anniversary protest and the death of at least 18 other people.

There is no need to diminish the trauma of last year's storm. But there's a perspective we could take in recalling our own discomfort—one where we realize that we found quick relief where so many others are still waiting.