It is 11 o’clock on a Wednesday night and I’m sitting in the corner of my bedroom and for the first time in my life I am genuinely scared.
It is now 11:05 and I haven’t moved. I’ve been staring at that statement I just wrote and trying to understand what it means.
ISIL has released a chilling propaganda video that shows a man donning a bomb while he prays. The video then cuts to blurry but iconic scenes of busy New York metropolitan life, and while the praying builds the man pulls the trigger and the screen goes black. The video ends with a clip of President Hollande saying “It’s horrible” and the words on the screen “and whats coming next will be far worse and more bitter”. I refuse to link the video. Don’t watch it. The spread of this fear is what they want.
Watching that video terrified me. My father, my family, my friends – they work or live in New York. And as I sat here in this small room in Boston, I felt helpless to the terror that ISIL aims to inflict. The city I’ve known as home, the city that was shattered fourteen years ago by terrorist attacks, our city, all of ours, has been singled out. And at first I was scared. This is what they want. They want us to be angry too. But we cannot give them that.
There is a video circulating Facebook that I saw this morning. In a candid interview, a young French boy tells a reporter that he is scared and they will have to change houses, while his father tells his son that they will not leave, that France is their home. The boy asks how they will fight the bad men who have guns and his father tells him “it’s ok, they might have guns but we have flowers.” After some initial confusion from the boy as to how simple flowers will be of help, the father points to the make-shift memorials in the streets of Paris and shows him that people are bringing flowers and candles to remember the people that were lost. The boy turns back to the reporter and tells him “the flowers and the candles are here to protect us.” He turns to his father and he smiles for the first time.
My heart aches for the people across the world that have suffered because of this terrible ideology and the senseless killing and torture of innocent people. And when I wrote that first sentence I was on the verge of tears. I was scared not only of the threat, but because of how that video made me feel. We are not helpless. Every day that we are free and happy is a day spent fighting those that wish to see us in pain. Every day that we are strong and stand together we show them that they cannot defeat us. The terrorists may be willing to die for their cause, but we must be willing to live for ours.
The events of these past few weeks are terrible, yes. But to turn to rage, to hate, would be to let ISIL win. They aim to change us. They aim to make us something other than what we choose to be. Choose love. Choose peace. Love your brother in France and stand with your sister in Beirut. Do not succumb to the fear and the hate because from that place only comes darkness. Stand against the darkness together with the flowers to protect you and the candles to light the way.