I live in New Zealand, and last Friday we experienced the worst terror attack in our history.
Per capita, the loss of 50 lives (and another 50 injured) at the hands of a white supremacist gunman at two Christchurch mosques is comparable to the horror of 9/11.
And that’s what it felt like for me on Friday.
It took me back to 2001 when I had been off school with a tummy bug, and my mum and I had sat stunned as we watched two planes soar into the Twin Towers in New York (over and over again on the news).
I remember leaving the lounge, feeling even sicker, not knowing what to do with myself, but knowing that I couldn’t watch anymore.
And that’s what I felt like on Friday.
I felt sick.
And intensely sad for the families affected, and for Christchurch itself, a city that has seen so much more than it’s fair share of suffering.
And I left the lounge.
I turned off the news livestream. I closed Instagram. And I went and played with my son.
We crawled around on the floor laughing, he blew raspberries on my mum-tum (his fave), and we played with his toys.
Later – still avoiding the news – I watched Queer Eye on Netflix (THE FEELS); and on Saturday, met my mum for a girls’ date of Lime scooting and Captain Marvel.
And it was amazing.
And I felt so guilty, because you’re not meant to have fun when an atrocity happens.
You’re not meant to smile while others mourn.
But even though I’m heartbroken, I refuse to live in fear and darkness because of one man’s act of hatred.
Reliving the horror and hatred over and over again gives him the power.
It’s what he wanted, and it’s why he livestreamed it.
People process things differently, and they feel things differently, and that is entirely ok.
For me, I can’t watch too much because I feel things very vividly. I imagine myself there. I imagine what it must be like for the families who lost loved ones, and the paramedics who had to climb over dead bodies to treat the injured, and I am completely overcome.
And I refuse to give him that power. I refuse to let him make me afraid.
I will cry for those who were lost, and who have lost, but I will not be immersing myself in news coverage.
I will back our country’s response to gun laws (America, take note).
I will go out of my way to be inclusive and kind to our Muslim New Zealand whanau, showing them that we are behind them, and that we are so very, very sorry that we were not able to protect them.
I will celebrate the heroes who fought back the gunman, and the Police, special forces, paramedics, hospital staff and countless others who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way – both physically and emotionally – to help others.
And I will choose to believe that we will rise.
I choose to believe that hope, love and light will win out, and that together this horror will make us a stronger, kinder, and more inclusive nation.
And that despite it all, still we will rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries? …
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s, Still I Rise
My heart is with you, Christchurch.
Note: If you are feeling (quite rightly) distressed about Friday’s attack, please talk to someone. A friend, family member, or 1737 is a free txt or call number where you can anonymously speak with a trained counselor. Let’s look after each other, NZ.