We Are Better Than This

In spring of 2014, I wrote this column for Le Provocateur, Assumption College’s newspaper. I am republishing it here because, tragically, the time is right again for these words to surface. It contains my feelings post Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The fears I had two years ago are still relevant, and that is why I wanted to share again. The Pulse massacre and Christina Grimmie’s shooting have brought all of these feelings to the forefront. I don’t pretend to understand any of the pain of those directly involved with recent events, or the fears of the minority and/or LGBTQA community right now. I don’t understand what that is like.

But the tragedy, for all of us, is that our odds of facing similar grief increase each day that gun control legislation remains the same.

We are better than this, America. We are past due for change, and the consequences have been bloody.

According to Alex, 2014

Walking around Boston with two of my roommates was the most relaxing thing I had done in days. Blue skies, a slight breeze and eating an Upper Crust slice in the Garden while the ducks quacked at our feet were a recipe for a good time. The three of us had taken the train in for MixFest 104.1, an annual free concert at the Hatch Shell.

We were there, as were thousands of other 90’s generation nostalgias, for one of the world’s most iconic boy bands. I am a Justin and J.C. girl at heart, but no one who grew up with “I Want it That Way” would pass up the opportunity to see the Backstreet Boys in concert. Two songs in, I noticed something interesting popping out of the top of the Hatch Shell—a small perch rising up with two policemen in it looking out over the crowd.

Maybe I am just paranoid. Maybe it’s because I was in Boston and had just heard a speech remembering the marathon. Maybe it’s because I am of the 9/11 generation and learned firsthand as a fourth grader that terrorism equals terror. Maybe it was a combination of those things.

Either way, I felt my heart skip a beat and my first thought was, “Will the bomb kill me?” I looked at my roommate and asked, “Do you see that?” She nodded and said she hoped everything was okay. I could feel a subtle discomfort move through the crowd as people looked to the mini guardhouse on top of the Hatch Shell and realized those policemen had not been there before. I could see one scanning the masses with binoculars and leaning forward to see better. “Oh my God,” I thought. “My mom is going to find out about the bombing at MixFest on the news. That is how she is going to hear.”

A couple of songs later, the guardhouse sank back into the Hatch Shell and I felt the tension leave my body. The policemen were no longer on the lookout. No bomb was going to go off. I was safe. My friends and I were safe. MixFest was not going to make headlines as another national tragedy.

After the Backstreet Boys concluded their performance with dance numbers that put 1D to shame, an announcer came on stage and asked for the crowd to please control themselves and explained that the policemen were on the lookout to make sure no women tried to rush the stage. Wait…what? My roommates and I looked at each other, our expressions reading the same: did we just fear for our lives because the Backstreet Boys were in danger of being victim to an extreme fangirl moment?

The answer, however unsettling, was yes. Looking around me at the crowd, I could understand where the concerns came from. In front of me, to my left and to my right were women actually weeping at the sight of their favorite boy band. I was disturbed on two counts—the fact that my mind instantly turned to “bomb” when I saw policemen in an unusual place, and the fact that the real reason for the amped-up security was overexcited fans.

On the train home, I thought about how I never want to be a woman who weep at the sight of Nick Carter, but I thought more about the marathon. I thought about bombs and how I had just felt afraid for my life-truly afraid-at a concert with my friends on a beautiful sunny day.

I was reminded of how clear the sky was on 9/11. I thought about December 14, 2012, the day I landed at Logan Airport after a semester in Spain. We were in line for customs when one of my friends checked her iPhone and said, “Oh my God, 26 elementary school students were shot today in Connecticut.”

Four months away from home, and the first headline I read in my country was about children being murdered in the state next to mine.

I am not saying that bombs, terrorism and school shootings are exclusive to America. Violence is exclusive to no country. I am thinking in more individual terms.

I know that growing up with violence as a perpetual headline has changed me. I no longer go to hit movie premieres—people have been shot in movie theaters. I no longer think of schools as safe. I am no longer surprised by the word “shooting” and have cried while watching the news; the first time being when I was eight, and the second time at 21 watching the marathon.

So that is how I have changed as an individual. But individuals comprise a whole. How many more paranoid people like me are out there? How many more have been changed by this generation of violence?

As a journalist, stories and headlines shouldn’t scare me. News should be my comfort zone. But I’ll be honest. The prospect of reporting the news that will be happening when I am in the field beyond Assumption College terrifies me sometimes.

Just this past week, “a shooting” was the top story again. Do I have what it takes to record the type of events that have made me afraid for my life at a Backstreet Boys concert?

Right now, I don’t have the answer to that. All I know is I never want to be a journalist who doesn’t cry at a tragedy. Does that make me a bad reporter? Maybe. I don’t care. I think that the day people become numb to “shooting” or “bomb” in the headline is the day the world needs to wake up and look in the mirror. What scares me the most is that I don’t think we are that far away from needing that reflection.


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