I woke up Monday morning on my friend’s couch in New York City and she told me the news about the mass shooting in Las Vegas at a music festival. She said it was the worst mass shooting yet. I laid there, groggy and blinking, trying to decide if I should look at my phone and see the news. How much did I want to see?
I did look. And the story was still in bullet points. Bullet points – the horrible truth of that sentence. I learned the basic details and in some way, my heart broke again, like it has many times before, like it did for millions of other people on Monday. When lives are lost so senselessly it affects all of us; we all crack, even a little bit, and shatter.
It’s like glass – the sound when it hits the floor and shatters into tiny pieces all over the ground. You know that sound? It’s the sound that stops everything. That’s how I feel every time I hear about another mass shooting in our country – it’s how I feel when I hear about tragedy. The world stops and it sounds like shattered glass.
I’ve been trying to put feelings into words all week and had a really hard time doing it. But one thing always remained the same – the way I wanted to describe the pain – the way I imagined it – always came back to something that was broken into tiny pieces. Was it burnt ash? Was it rocks crushed into sand? I think in the end it was always glass.
The thing about something breaking is it can be put back together, but it will never be the same. The cracks will remain and whatever the object was to begin with will remain more fragile than before. And the big question is, what if it shatters again? What if it shatters so many times the pieces are too small to fix? That’s what makes me worry.
I tried to go on with my day with friends in New York City – I tried to remind myself that maybe the best thing I could do was continue to do the most basic of human things – to surround myself with strangers, to smile, and be kind. In the back of my head, however, was fear. What if the next place I went was the next place someone decided to strike? I tried to push it away, and the day was still lovely, but that fear was always there.
On vacations, I tend to over-post on Instagram because I like sharing with my friends, and I like the space to be my picture journal/scrapbook. On Monday and Tuesday, however, I couldn’t bring myself to post happy things knowing there was so much suffering out there. I also suppose I wanted to share something meaningful if I were to share anything at all, and I didn’t have the words. I’m still not sure I have the right ones.
I did think about how much pure humanity I saw during my time in New York though, and I wrote it down on my plane ride home. Since I still feel like I don’t have correct answers – none of us do or ever will – sharing this is the best I can do, so here goes:
- One day, a man got on one of the train cars with us and played the drums. He wished everyone well and afterward said something like, “Anything helps. Even smiles and peace signs go a long way.” I saw a couple of people who never looked up or made eye contact while he played lift their heads, give him $1 and smiles.
- One day in Central Park, a group of elementary school-aged kids played violins, cellos, and a clarinet to raise money for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands following the hurricanes there.
- At a Yankees game, the crowd stood together after a home run and sang together. My friend Jenn and I talked about how much we love people and moments like that. The crowd couldn’t resist singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York” as well.
- I saw people give up their seats for others on the subway.
- There was a young woman on one of the trains smiling as she sent text messages. This went on for several stops and my friend Brittny and I had to wonder, “Who is she texting?” It was so happy.
- There was the ice cream truck guy who stayed just a little longer so Brittny and I could get twist cones with sprinkles.
- A guy selling falafel sandwiches out of a truck talked to us for a little bit. His name is Boris and he makes 150 sandwiches a day and wants to eat them all, he said. He also likes women who like a little spice (me!).
- Our cab driver Amil was so nice when we were so drunk.
- Jenn, Brittny, and I laughed so much which is one of the most pure, human things.
- At the Imagine circle in Central Park, a man sat on a bench and played Beatles songs, most of them about love. Thirty or so people surrounded the area and it felt like community.
- I saw signs of love everywhere – in grafitti, in nature, and I even ran into the iconic red love sign and there was a huge line to take pictures with it. People love love.
- There was an inclusive sign on the Highline which welcomed everyone there.
- The Met had such beautiful art; I think humans are sometimes their best when they are creating and sharing art.
- I heard people playing live music everywhere. I think I heard “As Time Goes By” three times on my last day in New York City. There were so many love songs.
The weight of the world is so heavy and I understand why people get angry after tragedies, although the more I learn, the less I feel it’s the best response. Fighting doesn’t make things better, and neither does fear. Anger and fear got us here in the first place.
I have to believe things can get better and that not all is lost. The realistic part of me says that glass will shatter again, and that this is only the worst shooting until the next worst shooting. But the other realistic part of me also knows that people are still good, and that the kind, collective things we do for each other matter. Maybe we will keep shattering all over the ground, but maybe we’ll also continue to piece the fragile pieces of ourselves back together. If not, what else is there?