Last night, I couldn’t sleep, so I did what I usually do when my mind doesn’t allow me solace. I grabbed my journal and wrote about what was keeping me up.
Here’s what I wrote:
Josh rung me at about 3 p.m. and asked if I’d seen the news. He told me there had been a shooting, and that he was on lockdown somewhere at Christchurch Uni. Immediately, I turned on the TV, and we sat on the phone for a while. At some point, I switched of the phone, but left the news running. It became clear there had been a shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, a city whose people have already endured what felt like the worst. At this stage, this was all I knew.
The news turned into background noise when I found a link to one of the accused shooters’ Twitter accounts. I’m not going to say his name—I’m not going to give him that satisfaction. But know that his twitter icon is etched into my brain forever. I clicked the link. I wished I didn’t. I hated what I found. An 80-page white supremacist manifesto outlined his intentions, photos of his firearms, a link to a livestream. I didn’t move from my seat. One arrest turned to two, and then three. One mosque turned to two. An unknown number of casualties turned to 49 (today, 50), and 48 injured. All of these people were Muslims, innocently attending their Friday prayers.
No one knows what to do. I watched a somber Jacinda Ardern call this “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” and I believe it without an ounce of hyperbole. This was an act of terrorism, and we must call it that. It’s our duty to acknowledge it for what it is, and respond accordingly. This means tougher gun laws and security measures. This does not mean cuts to immigration, or heightened xenophobia.
I watched my dad come home and ask, “What’s happened?” lifting his hands to his face as he watched the news and listened to me try to explain it. I watched an outpouring of love from Kiwi’s to our Muslim communities in Aotearoa, and around the world. Because they are us. There is no room for this hatred or bigotry, but there is certainly room for migrants and refugees in our country. I watched celebrities and world leaders sending their condolences, and I watched New Zealand saturate the headlines of mainstream media. I sent love to my beautiful friends in the Muslim community, and let them know how much they had taught me about faith and religion, even if I, myself, didn’t know where I stood.
I lit a candle. I went to work as normal. I lived. I did what those 50 innocent people could not do. But it was not life as normal, and it will never be again.
I will live on trying to do better for all of those around me, because I get to.
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