“We lied down on the floor not to get hurt. It was a huge panic. The terrorists shot at us for 10 to 15 minutes. It was a bloodbath.”
Those words transmit a chill throughout my body as I read the eye-witness testimony of Julien Pearce, a reporter and survivor of the Bataclan concert hall massacre where a reported 112 people are confirmed dead. Today is November 13th, 2015, and at least 158 innocent and unsuspecting people were murdered today. Other survivors report the killers shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they picked off the victims in a style reminiscent of bird hunting. Slaughter. Hundreds Dead. Killers Still at Large. Terrorism Ties. ISIS. The headlines continue to cycle like a never-ending nightmare. As I return my eyes back to the breaking CNN report on my television, a young Frenchman sobs through his story, horrified by the bodies he had to crawl over as he rushed himself and his mother out of the concert hall to safety. People appear both numb and petrified as they huddle together on the streets of Paris, the emergency lights reflecting harshly off their foil blankets. President François Hollande has officially declared a state of emergency and closed France’s borders. I am safe in my Colorado Springs apartment, and the contrast from the screen to my living is surreal.
All the actions point towards terrorism, and many experts and officials suspect ISIS. No one argues that it was a well-coordinated attack, involving at least 12 people and up to 6 hit sites. According to a U.S. counterterrorism official, there is much concern over the unmistakable methodology and planning that would have been needed to pull off such a series of attacks. It raises questions for the rest of the world in regards to homeland security. In America specifically, there is talk of cutting off Visas for 1-2 years, banning immigration from certain Middle Eastern nationalities, and doubling FBI staff. Whispers of wolves in sheep’s clothing amidst the Syrian immigrants is also surfacing. I can practically smell the fear pouring through my television and laptop screen as I watch and contemplate the devastation unfolding before me.
My heart goes out, like many people around the world, to the victims and related family members affected by this massacre. Prayers and thoughts surround France, and will hopefully bring this nation some healing. It’s something we all hope will never happen, but because of a broken world, it inevitably does. It’s an attack on life as a we know it, and perhaps a glimpse into the dark corners of the future. There are no words to express the pain and anguish surrounding the situation, and maybe that’s for the best. Sometimes the world needs silence instead of people pretending to get it. It never ceases to amaze me how it takes such a sickening tragedy for people to put personal feelings, nationalities, and races aside for a moment to help other people. Must it always come down to disaster to reach revelation? Beauty from pain, they say. But at what cost?
I wish we could grab this moment and tattoo it into our very souls. Moments like these reveal the worst of humanity, the sin that plagues the world. But it also shows the best of humanity through people living selflessly and acting for others over themselves. It makes us realize how petty our differences, how ridiculous our polarized political parties, and how toxic our judgment can be. That is not the way life was intended. In this horror, we wake up. We take hold of what matters and recognize there’s something bigger than ourselves. It is fleeting, however, for the moment will fade and life will return to the way it was; revolutionary, perhaps, on a large scale of global impact, but with very minuscule changes in the lives of ordinary people who live thousands of miles away. I’ve been guilty of it. It’s like a blockbuster film that bloats ticket sales opening weekend only to be found in Redbox three months later. It’s painful. It’s scary. We don’t know how to help. It simply fades with time. For whatever reason, we often move on without any real change, both internal and external. This is our history. This is our future. This is our now. We can’t lose sight and become victims of apathy. We are called to more. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a powerful response in the face of such wide-scale adversity.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
It still rings true today; it always has and always will. We are not meant to live in fear, but in love. I pray that most people will recognize this sooner than later, even if it’s with tear-streaked cheeks pressed against the cold pavement. We can’t ever stop fighting for the ultimate cause: loving people unconditionally.