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Are millennials too accustomed to terror?

Edited versions of this story have since been republished by Kicker and USA Today College — Please enjoy and thank you for your support!

It was a day just like any other in my little seven-year-old life. My mother walked me to my first grade class room, I was talking about the Junie B. Jones book I had just finished the whole way from my house to the class. It was warm for September.

After all the parents gave their kisses goodbye, my teacher got news. She gathered her small children on the rug where we would usually watch an afternoon Between the Lions or Magic School Bus — something to teach us that learning can be fun and reminding us to be kind to one other.

Covered in apple juice and playground sand, I watched the towers fall. At that moment learned for the first time there is truly evil in the world, and it is powerful.

At seven I felt compelled by it– compelled to do good and to inform others so they could do good.

I understood, the second I looked past my friends’ ambivalent faces toYou're (1) see the pure fear replacing my teacher’s usually sunny disposition, this is a serious and concerning time to be alive. But as a generation we are forced to see it as normal, a side effect of a world more connected. TV shows are reality competitions and the news is about terrorism, simple as that.

I don’t want to speak entirely for others and their experiences, but I can’t help but think as a young person growing up alongside terror, there is only so much our hearts and minds can absorb before we adapt.

I’m becoming numb to it. The evil in the world is winning.

On June 12, a gunman targeted an Orlando gay night club Pulse. He killed 49 people and injured another 53 in the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. to date. My reaction at the time, I’m ashamed to admit, was barely anything. After Paris I had cried, I hurt, I reached out to strangers in the city making sure they were safe. After Sandy Hook, I stayed in bed and watched the news on a loop.

After Orlando, I thought thank god it wasn’t here, doesn’t surprise me, and I went back to work.

That same week, in the same city, a little boy was killed when an alligator horrifically pulled him under the water. I felt so much sadness for the parents who had to watch their young boy knowing they couldn’t do anything to stop it. The father fought the alligator, but it wasn’t enough, it was out of his control.

I cried for them and tried to imagine what that would be like, and just the attempt to empathize with that sort of loss made me sob.

I thought about the time I was very little and almost fell out of the window in my parents apartment window. My mom caught me quickly enough, but even twenty years later she cries recalling the time she almost lost her baby girl to an accident. If my mom still hasn’t fully healed from an accident that never really happened, how can a person be okay after burying their baby.

The number 49 is too large.

At a point it stops seeming like people. Those 49 young men and women were babies were each born of a mother. There are mothers in Orlando grieving the loss of their babies like Lane Graves’ mother will.

And then on top of that, all those who were injured from being shot. Another 50. And all those in the room, witness to one of the most horrific scenes beyond imagination, at least another 50. And the members of the LGBTQIA+ community feeling threatened for who they love. The Latino community very clearly targeted. Millions more.

I feel evil for being numb to so much suffering; for continuing my life on and complaining about a late paycheck.

But it’s too overwhelming, there is too much of it. And it’s coming from us, that’s the worst part of all this.

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Young women remembering the victims of the Orlando Shooting. (WSKG/Twitter)

It’s easier to see an alligator as evil, but another human is so much harder. The shooter was a human who came from a mother and a father. He was a baby needing to be held, a curious toddler like Lane, and myself. He went through the same school system as the 49 people he murdered in cold blood. He was a customer at the club he shot up. He was gay himself.

He shot at the bodies on the ground to be sure they were dead.

It’s really impossible make the distinction of him vs. us. He is one of
us. We did this.

I don’t know what the appropriate course of action as a nation and world should be. I’m wary about the idea of banning assault rifles or those on the no-fly list because I think of what a noose the Patriot Act has been. But I do know, for myself and for my generation, it can’t be losing empathy.

We can’t disassociate, we can’t deny the reality of what is happening,
and we can’t let the evil win.

We need to be there for the people being hurt, but we also need to be okay with feeling the hurt ourselves.

Ignoring the infection only makes it spread.

Don’t ignore the infection, take action:

 

 

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