2010.03.24 Corpus Christi, Texas: This is the first time I’ve been truly alone in what feels like weeks. I feel like I’ve been living the life of a ghost. Groundless, rootless, floating from above, watching everyone else’s life unfold before me. It’s a strange thing. Since Afghanistan in July 2009, I haven’t really had a home. I’ve been crashing and paying rent, uncomfortably in Brooklyn and Watertown, but most of the time I am on the road, traveling across the country to listen to anyone who will speak with me. It’s been hard, but I’m finding that the families are the ones who understand what I am doing more than anyone else… even more than the guys in the army. They just seem to get it.
I have been living in and out of families’ tragedies for the past 3 months, as they happen before my eyes. In February, I traveled to Dirk Terpstra’s house in Michigan. Dirk at age 26 killed himself in a family friend’s yard on the night of Feb. 24, 2010. His friend in the army called him “Terpstra” or simply “Terp”. I drove from New York to Michigan with the hope that I wouldn’t get a door slammed in my face. Instead, I was welcomed with open arms
The day of his funeral, I showed up early to the Terptra household, where Gail and Jay, his mother and step-father live. Tess and Brandon, his siblings, were there along with Sophie, his best friend’s wife. I stood by, camera in hand, as his mother took the curlers out of her hair, often brushing the tears from her eyes, and checking on Brandon, Dirk’s brother, who was in the garage chain smoking cigarettes.
I am consistently heartbroken. It is taking a toll on me. Today is the first time since I can remember that I’ve been able to sit alone and breathe and cry and think about everything I have seen since Nevada. It feels good. It’s a release. Sitting here, in the Omni hotel café, I feel like I can peel back a layer, and step out of my skin for a while and just be Erin. I don’t have to be strong when I am alone. I can be myself. I can let a lot of things go.