Every time there is a terror attack my mind (and heart) race down the same path. It is a horrible path because it is so familiar. And because it does not end.
Living elsewhere, the news of horror is theoretical. In Israel, the news is a visceral punch in the gut that generates an immediate response – emotions and depending on how close to home the horror hits – action.
How many people abroad, even those who do care, understand that when terror strikes, we all race down the path of terror? These are the questions we all ask. The emotional roller coaster changes depending on the answer.
What happened? Where? How many? It’s not necessary to ask the full question: how many dead? How many injured? The newscasters ask the full question for us. We go with them to the hospital and hear the reports from the medical staff on the status of the dead and injured – people we don’t yet know if we know or not. People who, if not close family or friends are still members of our tribe; family we have not yet met.
One person is too many, too horrible so why do we obsess over numbers? I’m not sure. Perhaps we see numbers as an indicator of how much horror to brace for, how much grief and sorrow will need to be absorbed. We have 6 million reasons to be obsessed with numbers and they don’t end there – thousands more reasons came after, all who died in defense of this land, to grant us life. Soldiers and civilians, those who were killed in battle and who were murdered simply for being Jewish and alive in our ancestral homeland.
After gathering the basic facts of what happened and how many died my mind races down the path, taking personal inventory. Before the families of the dead are notified, we know how many were murdered but not WHO. Who do we know who might have been at the scene of the attack? Where are MY family members, my friends?
When the mind pulls up someone who might have been there – heart pounding, you pick up the phone and call. Where are you? Are you ok?
In the past when there were suicide bombings that caused busses to explode in the streets, when bombers blew themselves up in restaurants murdering entire families, there were so many people calling, trying to find their loved ones that the phone lines were overloaded, and it was difficult to connect with those you were desperately searching for. I’m not sure that the communication infrastructure is better now (maybe, hopefully, it is). When there are fewer people trying to use the lines all at the same time, there is less of a problem.
The worst possibility in this stage of the path of terror is when you know that your loved one was supposed to be in the place where the attack occurred, you call, and they don’t answer. Particularly when they are the kind of person who always answers the phone.
I haven’t been in the situation where you have to start calling hospitals to try to find your loved one, hoping to God to find them injured. Hoping that when the telephone rings it’s your kid, your husband, your sister telling you that they are ok – and not someone else, bringing other news.
I haven’t been in that situation – friends of mine have.
I haven’t received the dreaded knock on the door – friends of mine have.
Every time there is a terror attack, it is not just the dead, the injured, and their families that are damaged. It’s not just the children who are forced to grow up without their parents, parents who have to go on living when their children have been ripped from them.
People think of the families and friends of the murdered. Few consider that everyone else who has survived similar attacks is thrown back into the abyss of their own experience.
They remember when they received the dreaded knock on the door.
When they raced from hospital to hospital searching for their child.
When they were told their son had a bullet shot through his head and IF he lives, he will never be the same again.
When they were stabbed. When they saw someone else stabbed to death in front of them.
When they saw pieces of people scattered across the sidewalk, people who moments before were standing next to them.
When they saw the video of their brother being murdered – BEFORE they were notified of his death.
They remember. And for some, they re-experience their attack – the emotions, the sounds, and smells, rush back to drown them all over again.
And then we go back to work. Make supper and tuck the kids into bed.
Until the next time.
Israel is constantly ranked among the happiest nations on earth. Few note the burden we shoulder – the pain and grief that lives alongside the joy and accomplishments. We don’t play the victim game although, if we did, we could win. But who wants to win at a game that only losers would play? We are not victims. We are survivors. And we are stubborn. We will not give in. We will not give up. We will succeed against all odds – and we will be happy and GOOD, even when the world is cruel and heartless.
THAT is our victory.