Though it will be in the back of a lot of people’s minds when this is published, as I write this, it is fairly fresh—the events in Paris as well as the rest of the world. When I came abroad, I wasn’t expecting bad things to happen. Most probably feel this way, but I can’t help but feeling naïve about it, that it was silly of me to expect the world to just be a happy place while I was here.
Late on Friday night, I saw a news article about a couple bombs and a shooting. I thought that was going to be it. A horrible act, but done. I texted my friends who were in Paris for the weekend and asked them if they had heard about it, and told them to be safe. They were on their way back to their hostel and fine. I went to bed, thinking everything was over.
I woke up to texts from multiple people and that was the first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning—are you safe, please tell me you’re not in Paris, where are you. I had never experienced something like that. I saw those before the news. I was terrified. Something more had happened. I’m so used to these events being far away, used to no one needing to check in on me because there would be no reason for me to be anywhere near them.
That wasn’t the case this time. I could have been in Paris. I was in Paris the weekend before. By myself. My friends were in Paris. My roommate was planning on going to Paris the next weekend.
I had never experienced something so close, nor something I literally had no idea how to comprehend. I sat in my bed paralyzed. I didn’t know how to move. I didn’t know what I should be thinking, what I needed to do. I didn’t know if I needed to call someone. I didn’t know if I could get through a conversation with someone.
And at the same time I felt bad that it was affecting me so much, because I was not actually there. Others had much more of a reason to be upset and I thought that meant I shouldn’t be.
I still don’t know how to fully comprehend what happened. I don’t know if I ever will be able to. All I know is that in these situations we need to validate our emotions. It is okay to be upset if you are hundreds of miles away. It is okay to feel thankful if you were a few miles away and made it through safe. It is okay to feel both at once and a hundred other feelings.
Tragedy unfortunately happens frequently. There is no right way to deal with it. People experience emotions in a hundred different ways. In ten years, people may look back on these events and try to analyze how people must have felt, as they do with so many other tragedies. But it was not until this semester that I understood that you cannot sum up how a tragedy felt because there is no concrete emotion. And you cannot live in fear because there is no way to fully know when something like this will happen, we can only hope that one day events like this are something we don’t have to worry about.