From the beginning, I have tried to push this particular memory into the depths of the lost and forgotten fragments of my life..yet it continues to seep back in and occupy the space in my head like it firmly belongs there.
When tragedy strikes, it is all over your television screen. You sit there in silence shaking your head, wondering what is happening to the world we live in. As you watch the havoc unfold in the safety of your own home, you can turn the nightmare off in the click of a button. For some, it is so much more tangible than you could ever conjure up.
In these fragile moments, it is many people’s natural reaction to act selflessly, to help in whatever way they can, to put the pieces back together for those who were less than fortunate. And while many stand united, resilient, and unbroken as a community, as a country, as people…many also suffer in silence, feeling vulnerable and distressed.
6 days before my trip to London with my boyfriend, the horrific events at the Manchester arena occurred. My anxiety had heightened from that moment on. While most friends and family told me to shrug it off, because let’s face it, “statistically” you are more likely to be caught up in a car accident than a terrorist attack, there is no reason to worry. I think that had helped me rationalize a lot of my worries, and everyone else’s subconscious worries. But in retrospect, all it takes is being stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were on our way home from a play at the Globe Theatre, walking along uneven cobblestone roads, history etched into the pavement, the beautiful streets of London beaming with light. We were too busy taking in the sights, enjoying each others company, and not minding our direction on the map. In a split second police had begun to swarm the area. An evidently panicked police officer told us that there is believed to be a bomb, and that we need to run from the area. At this point in time they were still looking for the 3 terrorists, and while the news later unveiled that they were false bombs attached to the attackers, all I could think we fled from the area was “please God, please keep us safe.” We just kept going and going and the entire time I felt like I was anticipating a vast explosion. Once we were finally able to hail down a taxi driver, I prayed and cried the entire way home. Our wonderful driver tried to tell us a comical story about his harrowing experience of surviving a cold Canadian winter; his small act of kindness to ease our distress is something I will never forget. When we made it to the safety of our flat, we stood in the hallway for a long time holding each other, crying, distressed, thankful for life and for each other. I pray and think of those individuals whose lives were taken so mercilessly every single day. I’m still having a lot of difficulty watching any “breaking news” on the t.v. because these prerecorded interviews and reports feel a lot more real now. I try to drown out the noise of whaling police car sirens because it sucks me back in time to relive the nightmare over and over again. I’m overcome with waves of guilt for dragging my boyfriend to a Shakespeare play so late at night when every other night of that trip we were safe at home by 6PM. There is still so much we are overcoming, together and individually.
The point you can take with you from this entire mosaic of words I’ve compiled is to be honest with your real and raw emotions because we are all human, and it is ok to emit how you’re feeling to others, and because there will always be someone there to lift you when you’ve sunken so low you can’t even see a shred of light. And to show compassion and love, because gestures of kindness in these moments could be helping someone more than you realize.
London and the people of London have a special place in my heart, and while this is a heavy memory that I will have to carry with me for the rest of my life, it has helped me strive towards being a more compassionate person in my daily life. Those whom were giving free shelter, food, or taxi rides did as much as they could and impacted and influenced more lives than they will ever be able to fathom. Show compassion, even to your worst enemy, because it is what this world so deeply needs in these times of need.
words and photo by Sam Szostak