“The City was in ruins.”
I remember this phrase from a game we played the summer after my sophomore year in college. Everyone would go around and tell part of a story, a collective, organic narrative, set to a friend playing ambient keyboard. We were being silly, it was just another way to entertain ourselves. My cousin Natalie was visiting, and although she’s shy and introverted, she was ready to participate in our tale of a heroic tortoise flying with an eagle. Her contribution? The single sentence “The city was in ruins.”
It was so unexpected, we all burst out laughing. To this day, it’s a joke we perpetuate; when you have nothing else to say, someone cleverly says “Well, you know… the city was in ruins.” It was meaningless, and still such a symbol of camaraderie, between my painfully shy cousin and my friends. It made me smile every time.
And right now, my city and Natalie’s city- Orlando- is in ruins. The mass shooting at a club I have been inside is the most deadly in American history. The most people died. Not only that, but its spiraled into political fodder, fuel for fires that continually pit us against each other, anti-gay, anti-gun, anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-Obama, anti-media
It feels like my city is in ruins. Its havens of self-expression and fun have been raided and its people are losing faith in whatever they held onto before. Now it’s a string of anti, because we can’t be for anything, there isn’t anything to trust.
To repair those ruins, we need to rebuild. It’s not just my city, its America, it’s the world. Something has happened to make us believe we can’t trust each other, that there will always be an Us to be part of, and a Them to fight off. But that’s just how terror works, it wants you to believe someone is against you so you will be afraid. If you are afraid, it works.
And I am afraid, and I hate feeling frightened. I hate rethinking the conclusions I have come to out of love, and patience, and understanding- because of fear. But that’s how rebuilding works- you know now that your fortress is not invincible, and your foundations can and will be shaken. Still, it is the human spirit’s purpose, to rebuild. To know that it may not last, but you will try again and build stronger than before. And I still believe the cornerstone is love, and that has not cracked. Seeing lines of my neighbors ready to donate blood, seeing the expressions of sympathy and love from around the world- this is the foundation on which to rebuild our world. It is the only foundation that can be shaken but never shatter.
I will think and think and think about how to explain the things that happen, analyze their patterns, reevaluate my beliefs. But I can’t rebuild on a basis of fear and caution. Maybe that’s not smart, but it is right. And I may not build the tower that protects me and lasts longest, but I will rebuild a world that can be rebuilt and rebuilt and rebuilt in the face of any opposition.
The city is in ruins. But I trust that it will rebuild shining and stronger.