We’d been talking with friends for months about a three-week trip to France and on the day we were finalizing our plans, terrorists attacked Paris. That day they murdered people who were simply doing some of the very things we planned to do: sit in cafes, maybe attend a concert, stroll down a street, attend an event. In the following days, terrible events occurred, involving Russia, Turkey, Syria, Mali. So much violence and death.
We told our travel agent to hold on before placing a deposit so we could reconsider: did we really want to travel to France?
In the days that followed, a year-old video was released of a Chicago police officer shooting a teenage suspect 16 times, many shots point-blank after he was dead. A Chicago nine-year old was lured to an alley and executed by gang members for revenge. Someone shot up a Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs, killing three, including a police officer. And that was just a few days of news in the U.S. A few days.
A little shell-shocked, I sat in the chilly pre-dawn hours watching the fireplace and considered: Have things gotten horribly worse in recent years? Or is this the way the world has always been, but we didn’t notice until the advent of instant global news?
Who knows. That is not a question.
The roots of evil go deep
Maybe statisticians could tell us just when this shift happened, but it’s clear that evil has taken root in the world and in this environment, we need to be ready for anything to happen.
Even as we acknowledge our fears, we need to be ready to die.
Does that sound dramatic?
Well, look. We can either huddle in our homes, afraid to go anywhere, or we can continue to live for as long as we can. And that means LIVE in capital letters.
Diners in charming Parisian cafes didn’t expect terrorists to execute them when they left home for an evening out. Women getting health care services at Planned Parenthood didn’t expect someone to attempt to kill them. And who would predict that the cold, sick mind of a gang member would give him license to lure a child to an alley and brutally execute him.
Right after the Paris attacks I admitted my fear in this very space. Nothing has changed, really, in the days that have followed. Nothing.
I’m still afraid.
But I’m not willing to give up my life, myself.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing we can do about the bad things that happen in the world, no real steps we can take to protect ourselves. No, not even arming ourselves. At some point we need to understand that when it’s our time to depart this world, it’s our time. If we have faith of any kind, we should be okay with this.
We can’t change destiny
We can not change what’s destined to happen. So, we go on with our lives.
Two weeks after the attacks, the four of us placed deposits on our trip to France. We had to book 18 months early to get certain discounts, so we won’t leave until 2017. And we bought trip insurance, as we normally do.
I don’t know what the coming months will bring but I can say with certainty that there will be more and maybe even worse world events.
Come spring, we’ll be getting on a plane to Portugal. In a few days I’ll fly to Maui to meet up with a girlfriend and in February, M and I will fly to San Diego. Any time we step off a jetway onto a plane, we take risks. I know that.
But as tempting as it is to huddle in the house in front of the fireplace and escape into books and movies, life is meant to be lived.
And I’m going to live it because all those people who were killed can not.
You might say that I’ll live it in their memory.
May they rest in peace.