At 3:30 pm yesterday, I walked over to my colleague’s desk. We sat there, absentmindedly chatting about work, life, and Halloween candy – the things 20-somethings should be chatting about at work.
After a few minutes, I returned to my desk and saw a flurry of texts waiting for me. Beginning with my sibling group message, I opened my phone to see a text from my brother in Ohio; “saw there was a shooting. you guys okay?”
My brother in New York responded in the affirmative. I opened the next text from a friend in Pennsylvania, “Hey, are you ok, just turned on the tv. <3”
I quickly responded to both and pulled up the news on my computer where preliminary reports were coming out of an act of violence in lower Manhattan. The first story I saw reported a shooting. We now know that a man drove a truck down a bike path in lower Manhattan, striking and killing eight people and injuring even more. I sent the first article I could find to another coworker and on my way, stopped by her desk, now discussing things that shouldn’t feel normal to talk about at work, or ever.
Walking to the subway station, I squeezed onto a train full of people either unaware or unfazed by the news. I let the weight of silent headphones hover in my ears. I walked through the door of my apartment like I did every Tuesday night and changed into my running clothes like I did every Tuesday night. Immediately, I had snapped back into my normalcy.
When I got back from the park, I opened my phone to more texts of, “are you okay?” and “just checking in,” all of which I quickly responded in the affirmative. I quickly realized though, that that may not always be the case. For the eight people who were killed in lower Manhattan yesterday, the texts of “wanted to make sure you were good” are going to remain unanswered.
I’m too young to remember Columbine – one of the most infamous school shootings. I’m even a little too young to have fully grasped the events of 9/11. But I’m old enough to remember where I was when Sandy Hook happened. I remember the Boston Marathon. The Charleston Church shooting. Pulse night club. Las Vegas.
When I saw additional reports coming out of lower Manhattan last night, I was relieved to see only eight people were killed. But that is eight too many. Las Vegas was 58 too many. Pulse was 49 too many.
And how quickly we’ve become desensitized to extreme acts of hate. While I am certainly grateful that the number of those killed or injured yesterday wasn’t higher, it is still far too many. It is still eight lives that are lost forever.
I am 23 years old and so much of my adult life has been punctuated by violence and terror. And I’m tired.
I was leaving the park after my run when I passed a woman talking on her cell phone, presumably about the events of the afternoon. “It’s just scary, you know?”
It was a sentiment I had heard reflected from everyone I had spoken with thus far. And though it’s not a proper response, I think it’s what we’ve become accustomed to murmuring when we’re at a loss for words. We don’t have answers. We just know it’s scary.
I don’t want to be part of a generation who adapts to a culture of mass shootings or bombings or car attacks – a generation who is used to shrugging and saying "it’s scary" but being unmoved by the events and carrying on like nothing is wrong.
I’m not saying to live in fear. If I’ve learned anything in my nearly two years in New York City, it’s that people on this tiny island are some of the most resilient and brave individuals you could ever hope to meet. That said, I’m tired of accepting this as normal.
I don’t have a solution right now. No profound revelation. I sat in my room last night, thinking about answering the “checking in” texts and for a moment became overwhelmed at the vast amount of hate and violence that seems to have become so prevalent as I’ve journeyed into my young adult years. I thought about the car attack from a few hours prior. I thought about the Las Vegas shooting. I thought about all the cases of sexual assault and harassment that have been drawing national media attention. I thought about the extreme displays of racism we saw at Charlottesville earlier this year.
And I couldn’t help but wonder if there’s something we can do in moments like this. I cannot stop a bomb from exploding or a gun from firing, but at a time when there is so much ugliness in the world, I need to know that we can do something. We can call out our sexist neighbor when they make a joke about violence against women. We can call out our racist family member when they make a comment about a minority group. We can show kindness and love and decency to everyone we meet. Maybe it starts with a little understanding.
To those who lost their lives yesterday in a senseless act of violence – I am sorry.
To those who have to live with the aftershocks of their passing – We are with you.
To those who walked away yesterday but will be haunted by that moment – We see you.
To those who are afraid – We love you.
At the end of the day, we all belong to one another. Tell someone you love them today.