I find it hard to write about tragic events like the shooting in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. I could have been there—literally, I got invited for a spontaneous trip Friday night, only to be uninvited Saturday—and many of my friends were. Friends’ friends were shot, and some are still in the hospital. Yet it feels trite to write about, to feel something about, a thing I didn’t experience. Why do I get to be sad, or mad, or angry, when it didn’t actually affect me?
I felt the same way about Hurricane Harvey—my grandma survived the storm with little more than power loss, my friends were the heroes featured on NPR for rescuing strangers from their homes. Dear friends from childhood, summer camp, high school, college, and beyond saw flooding and lost their homes. I followed along on facebook. With texts. On the weather channel. But no one died. Not anyone I knew. Do I get to be sad?
I get to be sad or mad or angry or all three when my friends die. When my best friend dies. When my heart breaks. But as I obsessively read accounts of the events on facebook from friends, from the morning show djs I listen to often in the car, from strangers, I feel guilty feeling those things, because they don’t feel like they should be my pain. Is this empathy?
Maybe the shared pain of the Vegas shooting is that IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME. It could have been me. It could have been my friends, instead of their friends. It could have been more than flooding for my family. The shooting was so senseless and violent and we still don’t even know why. We may never know why.
Perhaps it’s the why that haunts. The hurricane can be explained away as a natural disaster. Nature. God. Karma. Random.
But a person choosing to create horror and fear? Is that a risk we take for being human and human nature somehow succumbing to its darkness? How does that happen?
I’ll say it: in some ways, I’m glad it’s random. It’s not racist, or sexist, or hate-based, as far as we know. It’s senseless. It’s tragic. This event has the potential to actually bond people together, like Hurricane Harvey did Houston; but it didn’t. Instead, we as a country have apparently divided along party lines, crying for this control or that control, as if we have ANY control.
It will change the trajectories of lives. Absolutely. My best friend died; it colors my whole world to this day and will forever. People I know ran for cover and heard bullets and saw blood; it will color their worlds for the rest of their lives. But will it color mine? And do I even deserve that? Like death, fear, haunting memories are to be deserved?
I have no answers; no one does. I have no control; no one does. What I can control is what always, always comes out of tragedy: love. Loving the ones I love with all my heart. Loving the ones I don’t love with as much of my heart as I can muster. Love is the only answer, it’s all there ever is.
Gratitude list: perspective.