I was six years old during the 9/11 attacks. Living just about 20 miles from New York City, I was pulled out of school mid-day and sent home for safety measures. Both of my parents worked, and my nanny at the time did not know how to explain to me the horrific events that had just occurred. I remember the news continuously playing in my living room as I ate lunch, tried to do my homework and anxiously waited for my parents to arrive home. My dad got home early that day. I didn’t see my mom for two more days. At the time, I went about my daily routine as if that was just a moment of sadness that interrupted my life. Even though I’d like to think I tried to understand, at the age of six, it is difficult to even fathom such hate.
Fourteen years later and I am just beginning to understand what terrorism is and what it is like to live in fear. I am currently living in Paris as a study abroad student, attempting to make sense of what is happening and how I feel in the wake of the Paris attacks this weekend. I was extremely lucky to be safe with my friends back in my dorm room as the horror unfolded throughout Paris on Friday, Nov. 13. It was hard to imagine that just 20 minutes earlier I’d been showing my friends Trocadéro, eating crêpes and taking lighthearted pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. But in just 20 minutes, I felt changed. As I sat on the metro on my way home, I looked down at my dead phone and prayed that all of the people I knew in Paris were safe. I looked at the empty seats around me and prayed that those who normally filled them were home safe that night. I looked at the people sitting silently across me and wondered if there was someone they were praying for too.
Last night, I felt, for the first time, just a small sliver of what is felt every day throughout many places in the world. I felt what it is like to live in fear. Not just fear of turning the corner or walking into a café with the threat of death, but fear of improper goodbyes to the people, places and things I hold most dear to me. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, I am living with the fear that there are people who want to destroy those parts of us that allow feelings of love, life and happiness. Though I know that living in fear of death will wither away with time as I fall back into my routine, those latter feelings will stay with me forever. My heart goes out to all of those in war-torn countries who live while these fears occupy every second of their lives, to those who live not knowing when their loved ones will return, to those who live waiting for their cities to feel like home again. My heart goes to those who have lost loved ones in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris in the past week.
I am now 20 years old and I write this less than 24 hours after the Paris attacks. At 20, I am still trying to understand what I am feeling and still find myself unable to fathom such hate, especially in a city I have come to love over the past three months. When I applied to study and live in Paris, I never imagined people would try to turn the ‘City of Love’ and the ‘City of Light’ into a hateful and dark place. Tonight, the Eiffel Tower remains dark and for some time, there will be an aura of loss, numbness and malaise throughout my home. But looking out my window, I see candles flickering with hope igniting Paris, and I know that we will be bright again. Hate will not win.
Tori Kargman is a College junior from Livingston, New Jersey.