By: Kendi Wolever
When I first learned of the attacks at the Bataclan Theater in Paris, my initial thoughts were of confusion; I misunderstood the magnitude of the situation. But as I read more about the events, I realized just how devastating it was, and how close to home it felt for me. I often see my favorite bands in venues like the Bataclan; I related my love for music and my excitement for a live show to the feelings that those people in Paris must have felt prior to the massacre that evening. I didn’t sleep well that night. I tossed and turned in a cold sweat, replaying the events in my dreams as I imagined them. I became terrified that someday it could happen to me and more than that, I was heartbroken for the ones who died that night as well as the ones now mourning their loved ones.
Every single feed I follow was filled with mourning, grief, news articles. Nearly everyone's profile photos were filtered by lines of blue, white, and red. I was drowning in a sea of overwhelmingly devastating information, a sea of inescapable tragedy. I read testimonies and perused photos and watched chilling video footage of the short moments inside the venue leading up to the attack. The gunshots from my nightmares were the same ones I heard in the videos. I watched and read too much. I got sucked into the whirlpool and just wanted to know more - I wanted to know why. I wanted to get as close as I could to the emotion of it all. I scanned photo after photo of the scenes after the attack, looking for a smile on any individual’s face, indicating that this was all just a sick joke. This could not be real. This was not real.
I woke up around 10 AM the next day. I was exhausted emotionally and physically after going through the normal stress of life - a 70-hour workweek - when this heavy news piled on top. My brother had arrived at my house to help me jump my car battery, so I stumbled into the kitchen to brew myself a cup of coffee from the Keurig. My hair was a mess and I was cozied up in my flannel due to the crisp autumn weather. I walked outside to see my brother standing there in his hunting gear, waiting for me to unlock my car so that he could get started. The leaves on the trees were a multitude of red and yellow. I could hear the rustle of them in the background as Dane talked me through the testing of the jumper cables.
Those were the only two sounds that I could consciously hear at the time. I wasn't even listening to him, though. I held back tears; I could not believe that as horrifying things were happening in this world, I had the privilege of standing outdoors on a perfectly peaceful Sunday morning with someone who loves me.
I cannot quite pinpoint my emotions on that day but it seemed to be along the lines of guilt mixed with fear. It is unfair that I was safe in that moment while those innocent lives - lives equally deserving of safety and peace - were taken. I felt this wave of hopelessness, knowing that I was vulnerable at any moment in time to devastation. The thought of this tragedy led me to an intense awareness of the fragility of human life. What confidence do I have that the world can gain peace, that I can be safe, that I can protect the ones I love?
By having these thoughts, I am giving them what they want. The terrorists conducting these calamities have sought to instill an immense fear into the people of the world; they have given the people of this world helplessness: a feeling of no control over their safety in any situation.
How else am I supposed to feel? How do I go to another concert without constantly being aware of the nearest exit and plotting my escape plan? What does life look like for survivors if the world is simply anticipating the next victims?
A while later I got in my car to meet my family for lunch, hoping that I could get my emotions under control during the drive there. The tears did not seem to want to take a break by any means as I plugged in my Spotify and heard these lyrics:
You hold the reigns on the sun and the moon
Like horses driven by kings
You cover the mountains, the valleys below
With the breadth of your mighty wings
You are my first
You are my last
You are my future and my past
The constellations are swimming inside the breadth of your desire.
I had not heard that song in a long time. When it played that day in my car it gave me an overwhelming sense of peace for the first time in 48 hours. Regardless of where I am in my faith (which is basically all over the place because, ya know, Iʼm 24 and far from wise), my heart pulsed with the repetition of these words.
Over and over again my heart sang, “You are my future and You are my past.” For just a little while, I cut out all of the clutter and questions in my mind and just remembered a time when I knew, “all I need is you, Jesus.” There was a time in my life when spiritually, everything felt so clear and concise. And despite this whole growing-up thing and figuring-out-what-I-believe stuff, for just a little while, I felt comforted. He told me, “Hey, Iʼve got this. You feel hopeless and you are afraid. But fear is not who I am, hopelessness is not who I am. I will take care of this. Remember who I was to you back then, in the past? Well I am your future, too. Just breathe.”
How do we have hope after something like the Bataclan? How do we keep going?
We survive; we push on.
We feel the crisp air in autumn and hear our loved onesʼ voices amid the rustling of leaves, and we hold on to it. We take hold of those moments that mean so much, the ones that bring a grin to our faces when we look back.
We cling to faith, no matter the depth of it. And we love. Oh, how we love. The purpose of life is often wondered about, but what is evident to me is that we are not to live in fear, guilt, or shame. We are meant to love, seek after passion, empathize, and offer kindness as well as compassion to those in need. We are meant to lend a helping hand and to really hear others’ cares and concerns; to comfort, console, and learn from the hurting. We are meant to take in every moment of good to destroy the strength of the bad.
You can trust a human being with grief...Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning. For grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy. And after all these mortal human years, love is up to the challenge. (Kate Braestrup)