Saturday, November 14, 2015

Yesterday Really was Friday the 13th

I had a difficult day at work yesterday.  Trouble with an employee.  Discovering errors in what we were processing.  Trying to get stuff on a project I need to have done by the end of the year.  While dating an entry in our system, I realized it was Friday the 13th.  I came up with an idea for a funny little tweet.  Something like...
"I'd say the day I'm having is because it's Friday the 13th, but then I'd have to explain why every other date at work is like this."
A little, "Work is Hell" sort of quip.  I went to my phone to open my Twitter app and saw there was an alert about, "Attacks in Paris."  I opened my browser to see what was going on.  
I decided I wasn't going to complain about how my day was going after reading the news. 
I've followed the coverage about the Paris attacks since then.  I know about what everyone else knows at this point.  About 128 people killed at five or six places throughout the city.  Most at a concert venue where a heavy metal band from California was playing.  The first state of National Emergency called for in France since the end of World War Two.  Borders closed.  All the attackers have been killed.  
I also heard the speeches of support and solidarity and read the tweets of compassion toward the French people.  It was pretty much what I would expect people to express.  I've not participating in the "outpouring," though.  That's because my reaction to the events has been more like...  Well...
This is the world we live in.  This is something that happens.
It's like hearing about a tornado in the midwest in June, or a big rig accident on the freeway in Los Angeles.  You feel bad for the people involved.  You're glad it didn't happen to you.  You pull yourself out of the storm shelter or accelerate past the scene on your way to work.  It happens. 
Realizing I'm feeling this way disturbs me.
Since the towers fell back on September 11th, 2001, we have had a series of incidents like this.  Some places, such as in the Middle East, get more than other places.  They live in the "Tornado Alley" of terrorism.  Other, "safer" places have been hit, too.  But the list is a long one.  Tel Aviv, Bali, Moscow.  Those were in 2002.  Istanbul, Madrid.  The Charlie Hebdo shootings, also in Paris, were at the beginning of this same year.   
I didn't used to feel like this.  I remember how disturbed I was the day the towers fell.  How eerie it felt being at work, trying to concentrate on getting things done, trying to get the employees in my unit to stop talking about it and get stuff done.  One of our sales reps revealed that his brother was a New York fireman.  He had been dispatched to the towers after they were struck.  He was declared missing after the towers collapsed.  They found him, still alive, in the basement of one of the towers two days later, pinned beneath a pile of rubble.  He was one of the last survivors pulled from the scene.  
Driving home that day, I stopped at a red light.  While waiting for the light to change, I tried imagining what it might have been like for someone in the first tower.  I saw my pretend self self arriving at cubicle, putting my stuff in a drawer of my desk.  I turned on the computer in my dream.  While it was booting up, I look out across to take in the view of Manhattan my window afforded me, one I'd looked out countless times before.
Only this time, there's a jumbo jet, filling my vision, heading straight toward me.  
The next thing I new I was racing down the street.  I had run the red light I'd been sitting at.  I was speeding down the road toward another.  I hit the brakes.  I pulled over.  I sat there, heart trying to knock a hole through my chest to escape.  That's what I wanted to do.  That's what I was feeling.  The desire to escape.  To Get Outa There!  I leaned my head against the steering wheel, taking deep breathes to calm down enough to drive home.  
I imagined myself being at the concert hall in Paris while driving home last night.  But it was different.  In this day-dream, I imagined ripping the AK-47 from the hands of one of the attackers.  I shot him and his partners, then ran down the street, shooting the others.  Very Die Hard-esque.  Very much like a video game.  I didn't entertain this day dream for very long.  It was crass.  A reactionary, knee-jerk desire to have what happened not have happened.  
I remember a term I heard, years and years ago, in reference to the troubles going on in Northern Ireland when the IRA was still active.  It was called "an acceptable level of violence."  It refers to a state in a situation such as what was happening in places like Northern Ireland, where people are killed in bombings or shootings, but where the rate of such incidents are such that things carry on despite them.  Businesses run, people take precautions, no one likes it, but it doesn't stop society from functioning.  
It's where incidents like this become like accidents on the freeway in Los Angeles.  Or tornadoes in Arkansas where my parents live.  Things that happen.  
The events in Paris are a tragedy.  A terrible one.  A horrific one.  People shouldn't have to fear being shot when going to a concert, or blown up at a soccer game.  But the situation that precipitated this reaction (I purposely do not want to use the term "inspired," since there is nothing inspirational in the reaction of the perpetrators) has been festering for years and will continue to fester on into the future.  Unfortunately.  
There is one last news item that I heard on the radio this morning.  They were interviewing a reporter that lives in Paris, on the same block where the concert hall is located.  He described to the interviewer his effort to get home.  People running the opposite way on the street.  Talking his way past police blockades.  People being ushered into shops and stores for their safety.  The surreal nature of it all.  When asked if he knew anyone "involved" in the incident, the reporter told the interviewer that his neighbor was shot.  A 55 year old man who lived next door to him.  He'd been at home when it happened.  But when he looked out his window, hearing the shots and the screams of the victims, he had rushed out of his apartment and down the street to help them get to safety.  He was shot in the arm while trying to help people. 
"Your neighbor is crazy," I thought as I listened to the report.  But it's a good sort of crazy.  The type of crazy that says such things shouldn't be like tornadoes or traffic accidents and that no level of violence is ever acceptable.  


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