They’re not always called terrorist attacks, but what happens regularly at schools, churches, movies theaters or workplaces are terrorist attacks. The guy who attacked the high school in Florida is a terrorist. That other guy who murdered those people in that church, he’s a terrorist too. The Nazi who rammed his car into the crowd of innocent people in Charlottesville, he nearly killed me and he did murder Heather Heyer, he’s a terrorist.
But the story that doesn’t often get told is that of those who were attacked by a terrorist and lived. Obviously the focus is rightly centered on those who were killed or injured, but the damage done to those who survived is significant and it impacts far more people than the number of casualties indicate.
Since Charlottesville, my life has been different.
Just this last weekend, I walked in the Chinese New Year parade in DC with my daughter. I could not stop scanning the crowds. I kept a close eye on all windows facing our direction. I took notice of any white men who were alone or didn’t seem pleased to be there at the parade. Even though I knew I was being irrational, that there was nothing to be afraid of, I just couldn’t help it.
Now contrast that to just one year ago, before Charlottesville. I was in DC on the day of Trump’s inauguration. The following day, I attended the Women’s March with my daughter. Not once, not ever, did I ever fear for my safety or my daughter’s. Now nearly every time I leave the house with the kids, I feel anxious about it. Now every time I’m in a crowd of people, I feel like we’re a potential target.
And so all of those kids who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, they are ALL victims. They ALL will be different people now than they were before the shooting. The trauma will vary from student to student, but every single one of those students must know that it’s OK to be afraid. The idea that things will work out has been shattered. It’s OK to think thoughts that are logically irrational. Time may never heal these wounds, but you can learn to live a happy, healthy life.
It’s important to recognize in your life things that are different than things were before. For instance, I’m a pretty together sort of person, but about a week ago, I felt this ever-present sense of overwhelming dread. I didn’t know why, but it was there. I recognized it, I spoke about it to people who care about me and it passed. If you’re a victim of one these heinous attacks, don’t ignore the things in your life that are different. Accept that things will be different now, and talk to people and tell them honestly how you feel.