Two years ago my rebirth began. My husband and I were working Friday November 13, 2015 when we found ourselves in the midst of the Paris attacks. Since that day, there have been 13 Islamic related terrorist attacks in Europe and 12 in the United States.
It’s a strange thing being classified as a survivor. Witnessing death changes you and witnessing massacre does a number on you. In the aftermath, people unite to mourn, thoughts and prayers are sent out and then life slowly goes about its daily routine. For you, the isolation begins to settle in. You go to grocery stores and immediately locate all exits and potential places to hide. You avoid crowded areas, touristic spots. In the first year following you don’t really take any forms of public transportation, you instead spend a small fortune on Uber rides. Every stranger is a potential threat. The sound of garbage men collecting out on the street jolts you awake in fear. A car backfiring causes your heart to skip a beat. You check the news maniacally, waiting for that inevitable headline to pop up and alert you that another attack has taken place. A city that you once loved becomes a breeding ground of anxiety.
Time passes. Your daily hopes revolve around putting one foot in front of the other. You know there is good in the world. I see proof of that in my daughter, a baby that was born 10months after the attacks, but that births a new fear into the madness. Fear for this little life, fear for what it means to have brought a child into this world and knowing that fear has real teeth.Still, hope is the last to die. The hope that life can transcend its most tragic truths. The hope that you can grow with this child. The milestones you pull out of the vortex of negativity and fear you have lived.
Two years later and the attacks are no longer on the forefront of my mind unless we are on the metro or mourning this tragic anniversary. Locating exits has become habitual. I’ve gone back to taking public transportation. The isolation of trauma has become my dark passenger and in the best moments it breeds a depth of empathy i couldn’t hope to conjure without it. I’m alive with PTSD and a pulse, and I’m thankful for the chance to be.