I lived in Manhattan on 9/11, freshman year of college. And I wept when I heard about the Boston Marathon bombings in my college city, while living in Santa Barbara. And now Paris is under attack, a city where I made my inaugural visit just one short year ago. I realize that am not unique in this; everyone is connected to these cities, these ground zeroes, by a few flimsy degrees of separation.
And initially there is something profoundly disturbing in that. So far-reaching are these attacks into our daily lexicon that we now have a library of images to serve as stamps for cities wracked by terror: A Boston city skyline capstoned by the words “Boston Strong”; a pair of bold cylindrical towers conveying both the World Trade Center and the number 11, captioned with “Never Forget”; and now a peace sign with the Eiffel Tower sketched into the interior, encouraging us to, “Pray for Paris”.
And what strikes me in considering these badges of sorts is how we continue to collect them despite a heightened level of security never seen before in the history of our world. Like my old Girl Scout sash, filled with stitched images (a diamond patch for Manners, an oval for Camping), so it is that our earth is amassing its own set of badges, but these are not badges of merit, but rather a Star of David of sorts, branding these cities as forever marred by the horror that is terrorism, as belonging to a club they never sought to join.
We all mourn. We all face these attacks together in a sort of proximate trauma, connecting to our own subterranean rivers of sorrow and pain and grief, to borrow a metaphor from author Cheryl Strayed. It is truly no wonder that our world is under more emotional duress than ever before. Yes, we have technology to contribute to that too, but we are becoming more and more connected by universal trauma, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. In fact, technology facilitates that degree of empathy, by allowing unprecedented access to the depths of so many human souls simultaneously.
I would simply offer that this is not a negative result of the attacks. While unbelievably painful at times, that level of shared human grief can serve as a means for us to explore our boundless ability to persevere, to persist, and yes, even to thrive. So I wear your badges New York, and Boston, and Paris, and Syria, and Lebanon, and Oklahoma City, and Madrid, and Bahgdad, and Mali. And I never forget.