Today has been one of those days. It’s hard to describe it. There are just certain days when the injustices in the world rush to you all at once. I woke up this morning to an alert on my cell phone from CBC News, announcing the horrid bombs in Brussels. This shook me to the core for certain reasons: from a sudden reminder that life could be so short and fragile, to the impenetrable impact terrorist groups are having on public safety and psyche. The term “terrorism” has become so clear to me this morning. I felt tightness in my throat as I thought about innocent civilians going about their everyday activities and then losing their lives to suicide bombers. My stomach turned when I remembered that I would be taking public transit in a few hours to school—just like the Belgian men and women whose lives were infinitely changed earlier on in the morning at a metro station.
The impact of terrorism is beyond the tragic loss of lives. It extends to the fear of leaving your house. It’s the lowered eyes and turned heads of fellow citizens, when they used to have big smiles and warm dispositions. Terrorism is felt in our neighbourhoods, behind closed doors, and in the depths of our heart. It is the creeping fear of a mother watching her child leave the house—without knowing if s/he’ll come back. In the wake of the events in Paris and Brussels, everyday venues have become places of danger.
The world feels especially dark as I mourn the many innocent lives lost today. But I am trying to remember that my consciousness of tragic occurrences in the world isn’t constant. I am trying to remember that there are also days that ice cream seems to taste sweeter on my tongue; that there are days when the flowers seem to be blossoming more than usual; and laughter bubbles out of my throat without inhibitions.
Terrorism has made me hyperaware—even as a teenager—of how fragile life is. It seems to me that as I grow older, my former ideas of my own invincibility are disappearing. Now, it is more apparent to me of how much a gift every day spent on Earth is. Also today, as the Brussels attacks, former mayor of Toronto Rob Ford has passed away at 46 to a long battle with cancer. Even worse, I am reminded of the hundreds of young women who are still missing in Nigeria, and the countless lives lost to Boko Haram terrorist attacks. My monotone responses to these series of unfortunate events have led my mom to remark that I am becoming “very tough”. As she said it, I noticed a tone of worry in her voice. I wanted to remark that I am worried too. My desensitisation worries me as a reminder of the loss of youth and innocence—it forewarns me of the approach of adulthood.
Growing up, I always saw adolescence and adulthood as paradise – a time when my parents wouldn’t boss me around and I could do whatever I want. I think so many children look forward to the ‘freedom’ of adulthood. But as I’m growing older, I’m suddenly afraid. I’m afraid of what independence has in store for me. I’m terrified of the other side. Of not being able to retreat to my parents—my safety net—when something horrible happens. These horrid events are making me conscious of what life really is like. It is no longer a paradise, nor a haven of autonomy and free-will. I feel cheated in a way. It seems as if I have been tricked into the assumption of responsibility, into accepting the world as it is.
From the rising student debt to the decline in oil prices and the growing mortgage rates, the world feels dark in many ways. The world feels especially dark as I mourn the many innocent lives lost today. But I am trying to remember that my consciousness of tragic occurrences in the world isn’t constant. I am trying to remember that there are also days that ice cream seems to taste sweeter on my tongue; that there are days when the flowers seem to be blossoming more than usual; and laughter bubbles out of my throat without inhibitions. I am trying to remember on days like this when the world seems to be coming apart at the seams—that the sun will rise again tomorrow.
Kika Otiono is the Youth Editor, Black Ottawa Scene.