One statistic that has stuck with me since 9/11 is that people are more likely to die by a lightning strike than a terror attack. With how many attacks there have been in the approximately 15 years since 9/11, it’s starting to feel like lightning strikes are more common than we thought.
I moved to a small town outside of Tampa in 2013. One of the first things I discovered is that it rains here pretty much daily, and there’s generally lightning associated with it. Locals told me it was the lightning capital of the world.
This April my Companion was offered a job in Orlando. It was time for something new for both of us, and he accepted. The storms here seem more intense than on the edge of the state, and that’s okay. They’re rather beautiful from my third story balcony.
What we didn’t expect to have happen was a terror attack within two months of us moving to the new city, much less five miles from our new home.
I didn’t know any of the victims. I’ve only recently begun making friends. I’ve met a few people who were friends of victims. It’s… disconcerting. I’m not sure how to walk readers through what I (and My Companion) are feeling, being on the inside yet so far on the outside we can barely see in.
There’s horror, of course. I feel like that should go without saying. This is absolutely appalling, that people who were out for a good time, dancing in one of the places considered the happiest on the planet, were killed, or injured, by an individual with extremist views.
Sadness. I’m not saying I expected world peace before I hit my 40’s, but I certainly wasn’t expecting these kinds of things. I am one of those empathic people. If you yawn, I’ll yawn. I often tear up at those shared videos on FaceBook that are meant to evoke the feels.
As I sit here typing this out, I have that thick feeling in my throat that indicates tears are on the horizon.
I mourn for the victims. I mourn for their families. I mourn for us all.
Pride. So many people have pulled together, in much the same way that happened after 9/11. People who I know for sure are anti-gay have mellowed in their views, and have reached out helping hands to people they probably wouldn’t have spat on had that person been on fire previously. This, too, makes my heart swell and brings tears to my eyes.
Anger. How could we not be angry? This country has been on the precipice of rage for a little while now, and I’m glad this didn’t push us over the edge.
I’m sure most of these feelings are normal, but there’s one that creeps in that I wasn’t expecting. It took My Companion to name it for me to understand. I just knew I felt this sense of unease any time we talked about the attack.
Guilt. Not in a way that we had anything to do with the attack. We didn’t cause it, we aren’t happy it happened (obviously), but he and I both realized we feel guilty for feeling the horror and sadness that we do when we weren’t personally affected.
We feel like we’re taking something away from the victims and their families by feeling the sadness and anger that we do, but we actually aren’t. It’s that last point we have to remember. Not feeling the anger or sadness would be far worse.
I wouldn’t want to be that person.
It took me more than a year to emotionally level out after 9/11. I’m not the only one. There was an uptick in PTSD and depression diagnoses from watching the coverage and the attack in general, and counsellors were offering discount services. My Companion and I both often have residual feelings, like 9/11 is far more recent than the reality.
Each attack brings those feelings back. This one made those feelings more fresh than they have been in a long time.
My Companion and I both dance on the knife’s edge of depression. The thought that we might want to talk to our individual doctors about taking meds to help with these emotions actually made us feel more guilty, like it’s self-indulgent.
The whole point of attacks like on the Pulse nightclub is to stir up the populace. Merriam-Webster has the simple definition of Terrorism as:
the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal
That we have these feelings is expected. The question is what we do with them.
Do we bury our heads in the sand, and chant over and over that it won’t happen to us? Never a good idea. Lightning often strikes beaches.
When lightning strikes sand, however, it can turn into beautiful glass sculptures.
We aren’t going to change any hearts and minds. Our way of life is too foreign, too offensive to some, and we’re going to have to defend that lifestyle.
All we can do is be prepared, help our neighbor, and remember we are one country, united.
If you’d like to help, here is a fundraising link for the Orlando victims. One Orlando Fund
It would also be very helpful to continue to donate blood and plasma to the Red Cross.
Finally, please, please remember the See Something, Say Something campaign.
Comments are open if you’d like to share your feelings and thoughts.