I like my Web site, blog, and Instagram to be an oasis from the harsh glare that our daily lives can throw onto us. Is this my way of trying to block out the less savory things that happen in our world? Probably. But it also is a way to help deal with those realities by having a safe place, an outlet free from that taint.
However, this weekend some of that reality came too close to home and has left a heaviness in my heart that I need to express.
There are no funny memes or happy pictures to accompany this entry; but, neither will there be any political discussion (ironic coming from a Political Science major). This is more about the human element.
On Saturday, October 27, less than 15 miles from my home people were getting up as they do every week. They were getting on their best clothes and they were arriving at their house of worship – same as always. None of these individuals arriving that dreary Saturday morning to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, PA would realize their lives could be shattered forever; or that their sanctuary was going to be violated. No, these people came as they always did to celebrate their faith and participate in some of the joyous celebrations that were happening.
I identify myself as a Christian, but I have family members (and my husband) who are Jewish. I have been to the Tree of Life synagogue multiple times myself and have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth extended by its congregation. So, for a new face of a 46-year-old man to appear, it would not have been out of the ordinary….except that it was. Because instead of this man being there to be enveloped in the warmth of the congregation, he was there to tear them down. Instead of wanting to celebrate their embrace of different ethnicity and colors, he was there to celebrate bigotry. Instead of finding joy in peace and love, he wanted to promote fear and hate.
Saturday, October 27 was far from a normal service at the Tree of Life; 11 congregants lost their lives, more were wounded, including police officers responding to the scene. Eleven families saw their worlds turned upside down, and countless more saw the serenity and safety of their sanctuary tainted by hate from a man screaming vile words to degrade those who were present.
I was sitting on my couch Saturday morning, crocheting and watching television with Desi when I received a news alert on my phone and first learned of the tragedy. Sheer panic gripped my heart. My first concern was for family, extended family, and friends. Was everyone I loved safe? It took several hours to be able to get in touch and have responses back from everyone; and, in that time those icy tendrils of fear took hold -but, more than that, I was completely heartbroken. Even if my family was safe (which everyone ended up being present and accounted for and no one was at that synagogue for services), there still were so many who were not going to be fortunate.
Violence of this level is happening at an alarming rate and too often I find that I get anesthetized to it. However, happening so close to my home, and to an area that I drive through twice a day (to and from work) and that my loved ones could have been attending rocked my world. I have tried to maintain a positive exterior, especially for Desi, and I find myself retreating more and more into fandom and Luvvies to escape from the horrros for the world – and from things that I can have so little direct impact on. But, I still haven’t figured out what to say to Desi.
My daughter is nine, soon to be 10, and is on the autism spectrum. Sometimes circumstances hit her too hard, or she doesn’t know how to process them at all. For the most part, my husband and I have left her largely (but not completely) ignorant of what happened this weekend. She knows the basics, and we have told her that these acts are wrong and were committed by a man who had very narrow-minded thinking, but, I know it is not enough. As much as I want to retreat into my private sanctuary where it is pretty and happy and everyone gets along – even those Pokemon who like to fight in real life – I want to keep some of that innocence for her, too. I can’t shield her from everything, and not forever, but it is difficult for me at almost 41 to understand what would drive someone to commit such a heinous act of violence, I don’t know how to convey that to a 9-year-old, let alone for her to understand it.
With this sadness in my heart, I am continuing to prepare for Rhode Island, but I also have added fear about that. If such ugliness as what happened at the Tree of Life can occur in a place of safety like a house of worship, could something like this happen at a con, which is my own safe space?
For now, I am trying to grieve but also trying to have some light cut through the darkness. At our core, human beings are all the same – we have the same organs, the same blood, the same muscles, the same bones. Yes, the packaging may differ, and some of us may be special editions, but that doesn’t change the core. And because the core is the same – the foundation upon which we each are built, I am hoping that we can learn to find more tolerance and have peace, love, and understanding with one another.
I thank you for reading and your indulgence at this less than happy topic, we will shortly return to our regularly scheduled escape from reality. Sending love to each and every one of you.
Hugs and cuddles,
If you would like to contribute to assist those impacted by the Tree of Life shootings there are many ways you can help. Donate directly to the synagogue via PayPal (https://www.tolols.org/give), donate to a credible online fundraiser, or contact the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh to find out how to provide additional support (412-681-8000).