Everyday Trauma

The lobby area by the Buttrick rotunda had never been particularly interesting to me. The location was a mere part of my everyday journey as I rushed to classrooms on the second and third floor. I never stood in the lobby long, talking to friends. I never even sat on any of the couches to do homework. I mainly associated this first-floor space with the many tour groups that lingered there, prospective students and their parents looking all around at the many walkways filled with glass and iron while peppering tour guides with questions. The area was familiar yet impersonal; I knew it well, but nothing tied it to me.

It was not until that fateful February afternoon, not so long ago, that this space gained new meaning for me. I remember myself swaying and dizzy. I remember desperately trying to reach a friend by phone, hoping that I would make it back to my dorm room somehow. I remember my vision blurring, my stomach churning, waves of heat and ice slapping me, and tears gathering in my eyes. I remember a figure in green waving at me, hearing “Diana, are you okay? You’re going to be all right. I’m here. I’m getting help.” I remember being walked to the rotunda, hearing tense phone calls, and finally the EMTs leading me back to lobby. I remember being helped into a gurney and wheeled out of Buttrick, away from that fateful location.

While my experience in Buttrick by no means measures up to trauma represented by Jessica Ingram’s images, they share a similar idea. The photograph I took of Buttrick’s empty lobby does not tell very much on its own; however, when I add words to the image, a story develops and the location gains a new association. For me, that space will always remind me of food poisoning and going to the emergency room, but for people who do not know about my experience, it may simply be a place to pass through momentarily, not even deserving a second thought or glance. Sometimes when I am walking around campus now, I find myself wondering how many untold stories all of these familiar locations hold.

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