Yesterday I watched in horror while Paris was attacked by terrorists.
Today I stood amidst cheering, dressed up children, while reading the latest updates on the terrorist attacks.
Today, is a day of contradictions.
On one hand, I want to – and do – mourn the victims of the cruel attacks. I hate that this happened again, and to a city that’s lost so recently, too. I knew there’d been some trouble since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, but then again, there always seems to be some kind of trouble in Paris so I didn’t pay much attention to it – until yesterday.
On the other hand, today is the start of an important, traditional festival in the Netherlands. On the 5th of December, we celebrate Sinterklaas (St. Nicolas). According to tradition, today “the good old man himself” arrived in the Netherlands from Spain. It’s a thing, don’t ask. But this also means that there’s the big ceremony in one city, and then ~magically~ he makes it to every town in the nation to come say hello to the children (and plenty of adults). This then, in turn, means that I stood at the train station after work – because the Sint arrives by train here where I live, instead of his traditional ship- surrounded by children dressed in bright colours and waving little flags and shouting excitedly. Suffice to say, it was all very surreal.
This festival has developed its own set of problems and potential attacks over the years, so security was already on high alert (even in my tiny town there was security, police, and extra train personnel staff). But today there was an extra edge to it, a new “I really hope this is going to be alright”, a new level of tension.
I couldn’t help but feel extreme relief once I got home. I’m still constantly keeping an eye on my phone for updates both of Paris and my own country. I can’t help but be afraid that masses of children and their parents are such an easy and hard-hitting target for terrorists. I can’t help but be afraid of both the short-term and long-terms effects of these attacks. I can’t help but be afraid for the muslims in my area and my country on a whole, who are already having a tough time with blatant racism and discrimination.
I feel happy about humanity coming together to help out. I feel happy about the #porteouverte hashtag for those seeking shelter after the attacks. I feel happy about the taxi’s driving for free to bring people to safety quickly after public transport shut down, and about the restaurant that closed its blinds and turned off all its lights to pretend to be closed, as soon as they heard the gunshots in the neighbourhood. I feel happy that, after these terrible attacks in our neighbourhood in the world, my country is still continuing with the celebrations for children.
I think it’s important to focus on the good things, no matter how small. I think it’s incredibly important to stick together, to work together, to help each other, no matter who you are or who the person you’re helping is. The goal of terrorism is to literally scare people into obedience. I think we’ve all shown that we’re not giving them that.
Tonight, I’m lighting a candle for the victims. Tonight, I’m in mourning for people I never knew. And tomorrow, I’m going to continue doing what I already always try my best to do: be kind, be helpful, and don’t let the fear take over.