I hope you’ll forgive the diversion from red carpet fashion and prom tips, and other such posts you’d expect from a modest prom company, but tonight my heart is heavy.
Somewhat ironically, I heard today’s sad news while standing in line at the post office to mail a bridesmaids dress. An acquaintance behind me said, “They got the suspect.” I assumed she meant the one outstanding suspect from the November, 13 Paris attacks, but much to my horror I soon learned that their had been a mass shooting in San Bernardino that had left fourteen dead.
Now, before I go on I’d just like to say I have no intention of getting political or straying from the very happy ecumenical place we as a company like to exist in. This post is not about condemning large groups of people, nations or religions. This post is about how a snowflake beats a shooting.
My history with terrorism is long and at times painfully personal. I was still in junior high and high school when America suffered through Columbine and the all too many copycat school shootings. I was a bit younger than most of the victims and perpetrators, but it still was very close to home.
In late August 2001, I was visiting New York with a friend and her family. We went up in one of the World Trade Centers. It was the biggest building I’d ever been up in and, having been raised in California, I asked about how the building would handle earthquakes. My friend’s uncle joked that they didn’t have earthquakes in New York City, only terrorists. Those words rung in my ears less than two weeks later when 9/11 occurred.
Like most Americans, I still remember most of 9/11 with vivid and horrific clarity. I remember the look on people’s faces as they tried to go about their daily business. I remember when our economy tanked that year because we as a nation were gutted.
Fast forward four years to July, 7 in London. I still remember where I was when I heard that awful news. Four years later, when I studied for my master’s degree at the University College of London, I would daily walk by the remembrance plaque from where the bus exploded. My tube station likewise had a remembrance plaque for the train that exploded that day as the attack occurred between my station and another nearby one.
As for many of you (especially those who are a bit older like myself), terrorism was a specter close at hand. This past month, the Paris attacks rocked me to my core. I have a lot of family in France and in Paris and for several hours, I didn’t know if they were among the victims. It was awful and gut wrenching. Fortunately, every one of my family members was safe, but those attacks left me feeling as if we have lost something we may never get back.
And then, today. I went from the post office to the bank, still in shock. As I read more about the attacks, I broke down crying. No one gave me strange looks. I suspect that they felt exactly as I looked.
I felt shell shocked. All I wanted to do was go home, finish up a few tasks and just stop feeling. I wanted comfort food and to crawl into bed, which I did at 9:30, which is about three hours early for me as I am quite the night owl! I woke up a little after eleven still feeling awful. I felt defeated, afraid, joyless and robbed. I felt exactly as all terrorists want us to feel.
With the realization that I was allowing myself to play right into their hands, I made a decision. I decided to stop just feeling sad, hopeless and awful. I think it’s healthy to grieve when these tragedies happen and allow ourselves to feel our emotions, but I wasn’t going to let that be the end of the line for me. I wasn’t going to let them count my despair as a “win” tonight or any other night.
So, while I still feel sad and awful on the inside, I made a conscious choice to feel more. I chose to reach out and feel hope and joy and to cling to them fervently. And so, in defiance of the sadness and terror of today, I made a paper snowflake to decorate my home.
A simple act? Yes. It had been so long since I made one that I actually had to look up instructions on how to do it. In making that snowflake, however, I chose to move forward, albeit a baby step. I chose to move forward in celebrating the holidays and human creativity. I chose to make something beautiful, albeit small, in remembrance that life is beautiful.
So, to all the terrorists out there, no matter their agenda, ethnicity, nationality or creed, I have this to say: My snowflake beats your shooting.
Why? Because my snowflake represents that you will not keep us down. We will not become slaves to your violence and your fear.
We will continue going on and celebrating life and love, in ways both small and large. We will make paper snowflakes. We will fall in love. We will go on in spite of your darkness.
Will we mourn? Of course. We will be deeply saddened? Yes. Will we pray for our leaders that they have wisdom to protect us all? I sincerely hope so.
But, we will not give in to their terror. We will not let their darkness snuff out the great light that is human goodness and the joy of a life well lived. We will keep on going, one paper snowflake at a time.