Given tonight’s events in Paris, I couldn’t bring myself to publish a perky, wonder-filled sequel to this morning’s post. The sequel will come, but not until it stops feeling so dissonant to me.
As of my 9pm writing of this post, I’ve been listening to NPR and BBC coverage of the attacks for several hours. In that time, the numbers of dead have been jumping ever higher. Eighteen to thirty to sixty, and then with the storming of a concert hall where a hostage situation had been underway, some one-hundred more.
It’s all just too much, isn’t it?
Ever since September 11, this is the kind of terrorist attack I’ve been fearing: a series of smaller-scale attacks – one after another and another – in unpredictable locations. As I learned that day, it’s very different to be horrified by something that is happening elsewhere, in one defined and impersonal location, than to be scared for your own safety. It is, in my mind, the difference between horror and terror.
Tonight, I look on (or rather, listen in) from a safe distance. I have no loved ones who were in harm’s way. I feel tremendous sadness: I’m struck by imaginings of what the victims might have been feeling in their last moments and I’m heartsick for those who are wondering tonight whether their children or siblings or friends are among the dead. But I’m not feeling that fear of not knowing whether the attack is done, not knowing what or where could be next, not knowing whether I’m in danger.
I remember what it was to feel that way. It’s a primal kind of fear, one that strips away everything but the logistics of survival and the most elemental longings of the human heart.
I mourn the fact that so many today know that fear: Tonight it was Parisians. Yesterday (literally – yesterday) it was the people of Beirut. Lately it’s been Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, and far, far too many others.
Yes, it’s all just too much.
Lord, have mercy. Mary, our Mother, comfort and sustain your children. St. Genevieve, patroness of Paris, pray for her people.