I let my fingers fall as they lightly tapped the computer keys on the black plastic board. I was quickly trying to finish up some work before leaving the office in the next couple of hours when the first, of some of the most horrific texts, came trickling in.
Someone from an ongoing group message I was in asked us to keep her sister and her husband in our thoughts and prayers as they were in Paris right then. She had let us know that there had been multiple terrorist attacks around the city and that there more were happening.
She quickly pushed out frantic messages in our message stream. “There are at least 30 dead and hostages have been taken. We haven’t heard from them and my parents are freaking out.”
A low gasp had emitted from under my breath as I changed my computer window to a Twitter stream of the trending hashtag, Paris. Some of my friends that were posting online hadn’t heard from their family or loved ones either, and some friends from the Palm Springs area spoke about one of their local bands also being held hostage at a concert that was taking place in the city.
The next batch of texts rolled in.
“And they were at tourist locations and at a restaurant and a bar, but they say that they have machine guns and are just shooting up places.”
I saw photos of monuments where I had once stood next to, but instead of happy tourists and relaxing locals heading out to dinner, I saw scared people running everywhere.
It wasn’t until the next day that we heard from some of our friends that some people that they knew had died in some of the attacks.
According to The New York Times, “[m]ost of the 129 confirmed fatalities resulted from the mass shooting at a rock concert in the center of the city around 9:20 p.m. local time Friday. Other deaths came after suicide bombings and shootings around the same time in five other locations, including restaurants and a soccer stadium. More than 350 people were wounded, with at least 99 of them in critical condition.
It is the worst terrorist attack in Europe in 11 years, since the coordinated bombings of commuter trains in Madrid killed 191 and wounded 1,800 in 2004.”
CNN had reported, a day later, “A pair of suicide bombings struck southern Beirut on Thursday, killing 43 people and leaving shattered glass and blood on the streets… At least 239 others were wounded.”
A further search on the Internet lead me to the news of “at least 147 people, mostly students, have been killed in an assault by al-Shabab militants on a university in north-eastern Kenya,” according to BBC News. It all felt so close to the Oregon shooting that happened right after my friend and I had visited some of our friends in the Beaver State.
Suddenly, the world where news of people joining ISIS, bombings, and beheadings happened every day—but far away—hit a lot closer. The information streaming down my daily timeline of death and conflict, jumped out from behind the comfort of my computer screen, and out from the mouths of terrified friends who saw their lives flash before their eyes. Suddenly—the violence painted with cold and detached hard-hitting newsworthy headlines felt overwhelmingly real.