The 14th of July, 2016. A night to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.
A crowd with firework eyes and faces radiating innocence – a snapshot that will now never be replicated. Eighty four lives – stolen, the thief accelerating without daring to look back. Two kilometres, two thousand metres, two hundred thousand centimetres. Depends on the perspective.
That night, the crackle of the fireworks was the shattering of thousands of universes. Leaves sinking through the broken branches of a family tree – ten children robbed of the chance to climb, as lifeless as the plastic dolls that slipped from their hands. Dolls that mimic the bodies they lay beside, the absence of heartbeats deafening. When one’s last word is a cry for help, you know that there was more to say. The echo of the lives unlived will haunt us. All of us.
Celebrations melt into devastations with the fire of echoing screams and sounding sirens. Unprepared hospitals present nurses with wide mouths to match their round eyes. Doctors struggle to inhale hope and exhale doubt. The world takes the same breath, but our lungs have thickened with dust, the aftermath of living in constant expectance of another attack, waiting to see which city will deserve the next hashtag, which flag will follow in rippling through social media. We measure our empathy by the popularity of our internet posts, sizing one life up against another in comparing each attack. Maybe if we stopped seeking differences we’d see the similarities blinking up at us. For I am the Russian student on a graduation trip with her friend, and I am the sixty year old mother of seven. I am the American tourist father and I am his son.
The more I discover about this world is the more foreign it becomes for me. For we have evolved into humans without humanity. It doesn’t take perspective to see that.
Terrorism is not without explanation: a psychological desperation to belong, an economic wound caused by battling sans sword or shield. But no amount of clarification will ever help me understand that one moment. The finger as it tugs at the trigger, the foot as it presses into the accelerator. The instant in which one human chooses to murder another.
Maybe all that goes wrong in this world is the product of a misunderstanding. For what kind of sick species encourages its predators to hunt its own prey?
My eyesight offers little to be proud of, but it doesn’t take perfect vision to notice the grey ahead. For now the misunderstanding has momentum, it’s grown a pair of legs and it can pedal without stabilisers. It’s a monster we’ve created and lost control of. It’s a cage we unlocked and a key we’ve misplaced. It’s a perpetual blindness, a permanent deafness. The world was created for us but we will be the ones to destroy it.
We’ve already begun.