Image courtesy of the Huff Post.
On September 11th, a day that I remember so clearly that I could almost tell you it minute by minute, I walked into the library and saw two librarians huddled in a corner, crying. I set down my books and began looking through the shelves for the book I needed, a textbook on Shakespeare. A librarian touched my shoulder. "You need to go back to your dorm, and get to the lowest level."
Thus began the worst day of my life to date. I was going to school in Bronxville, Ny, a suburb about 35 minutes away from downtown Manhattan. Was my life in danger there? No. Did I know that at the time? No. I knew the sky was full of jets, and that our phones were dead. The TV stations were out, except for the BBC, which was terrifying in itself. "The Americans are running in panic...." I thought we were being invaded. If you ask people in NY what they thought that day, and that will be a very common answer: Since we didn't have media telling us what was going on exactly, we thought we were being invaded. I remember clutching my Pooh bear to my chest and rocking on my bed, while my friend Rachel curled up beside me. It was the day that so many things changed in my life and inside of me.
I became afraid. Afraid of almost everything. I was afraid of staying in New York to finish my schooling. I wanted to go home to Colorado, but luckily my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, talked me out of it. I refused to go into the city, something I had loved dearly. I didn't want to leave the safety of my dorm, didn't want to go to restaurants or crowded places. I felt like my heart had exploded, and what had come in to linger in that empty place was fear, a fear of everything, I feared new terrorist attacks. I feared anthrax letters. I feared suicide bombs. I feared everything - especially flying.
Just getting me to the airport became a trial. I would cry the entire ride there and then clutch Ryan desperately, making him promise all sorts of things "If I marry someone else, she won't be prettier than you." Once I was in the airport, my hands would shake. I would see terrorists everywhere. I actually mentioned to a airline official once that there was a lone computer with no owner. Soon, there were swarms of airport officials around it. It belonged to a Mom with a young child who had gone to the bathroom. I still feel sort-of bad about that. I would cry during take-off, any tubulence and then again during landing. Flying had gone from something that I found mildly annoying to something that terrified me so deeply that I would have nightmares for weeks before my flights.
This is the direct result of the fear that came out of the terrorist attacks. Terrorism wants to cause terror, and within me, they succeeded in spades.
Eventually, I got better. I became afraid of tornadoes instead, so that helped. Also, I flew more. I started traveling again. In truth, I will never like flying. I will never enjoy it. But I will do it, and now I can mostly do it without crying or hyperventilating into my husband's shoulder. I will never be over the fear, but I can deal with the fear, and the two couldn't more different.
So this weekend, when a sick psychopath takes the lives of 12 people in Aurora, Colorado, 35 minutes from my home, I am tempted to let it bury deep into my brain, to let it take root and grow into terror. I could submerge myself in the news, obsessively comb the internet for each tiny detail regarding the shootings. It is so appealing to become that college student again, rocking on my bed, so afraid of the world outside.
But I won't. I already know what it's like to let the terrorists win. I already have experienced when an act of violence made me afraid to live. It changed who I was, how I thought and felt. And I won't..no, refuse...to let it happen again.
I will go see the Dark Knight Rises this week. I will sit in the theater and though I'm sure that my fear will rise along with Batman, I will go. I will see this movie that I have waited so long to see. Those victims in Aurora, they were fans! You have to be to go to a Midnight Showing of anything. They were fans, I am a fan, and that makes my sorrow about this event even deeper. They loved and anticipated it, and so do I. We're nerds too. We have that in common. Those were my people.
Aligning with the fantastic sermon I heard today about suffering and God's comfort, I will weep with those who weep. I will mourn this loss of life, this unimaginable tragedy, so close to my home. I will pray for the victims, their families, the first responders, those who counsel and aid the mourning.
And then I will go see the movie, because I refuse to let a terrorist take another thing away from me. I have already done that. If I begin to fear going to the movies, then he wins. And he will not win, not in this heart. I will guard it this time, from those wicked people who seek to change it with cowardly acts.
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