Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Living in a ghost town after a terrorist attack..
I planned to write about how powerful and nourishing it can be to meet strangers while traveling around the world. And then suddenly a terrorist attack happened in the city I live in. Since the night it happened, it is like life has become a roller coaster. I never thought that someone or an event could take my freedom away from me, yet, it happened.
It was a warm November night in Vienna and the last night before the pandemic-related lockdown was being lifted. I remember sitting at my desk and writing an essay about human-virus relationships for a university seminar. While drinking hot fruit tea, eating vegan carrot cake, and listening to soft acoustic beats I realized that this essay is way more complex to write than I thought. So, I canceled my 6.00 pm dinner with a friend to celebrate our written essays. This cancelation and my procrastination probably saved us, since the restaurant we wanted to go to was right where the attack was. I kept writing while having a glass of red wine with my flatmates.
From one second to another all three of us got notifications on our phone screen and were frozen for a while. A Shooting in our city. It seemed so unreal. So far away but at the same time so close. I didn’t realize what was going on and kept on working on my essay. A lot of messages made my screen light up. There was no chance I could concentrate on anything else than what was going on there in my city. I felt numb and started to check on my friends while I felt like a robot tipping those messages.
Vienna felt like my city, my home, from the very beginning. The place I can grow into the version of myself I want to become, day by day. We found ourselves sitting in the kitchen, everyone with their phone in their hands, and updated each other about what happened next. It kind of was like: They shot one. One policeman died. There are six places where they shot. Police asked the people in Vienna for help. The military was activated. It is either a terrorist attack or a rampage. Three people died. The situation is out of control. Stay home. Avoid any public place or transportation. The first district is closed for the public. And so on.
It was really warm on the 2nd of November in Vienna but I felt so cold. In fact, I never felt so cold before. Police sirens and helicopter sounds were so loud and constantly there. We switched from the kitchen to the living room and felt overwhelmed, anxious, nervous but kind of together at the same time.
The city that I always described to people as diverse, lovely, peaceful, full of life and filled with endless possibilities was hidden under a dark veil from one second to the next. Wrapped in a blanket while holding either a pillow or something else in our arms made us feel a little bit safer. I don’t know why we did that, yet it was what we needed that evening. I think it is often like that, you just need that one thing, but you cannot tell why. Our fear was present but having company let us go to bed late but to good sleep.
We feel the urge to control our world, yet we can’t. The only thing we can do is put all our fears together and understand where they are coming from and put them into the right perspective. Allowing our fear to be present yet also do not let it take over us. I’m sitting on my balcony, writing my feelings down while the sun is going down. The sky looks so pretty and the day after this terrifying event is turning into night. A second night where it is uncertain what is going on.
Mixed feelings. Fear and hope. Wanting to go out of the house but also not. The beautiful sky above me reminds us that even in the darkest, incomprehensible times there is always something in us that lets us go through hard moments. My thoughts are with all the people who were affected in any way by this attack. I know that all together, we will continue to give Vienna its beauty back. Day by day. Smile by Smile. Person by Person.
All the pictures, all the media, all the news, all the people who check up on you, all the love, all the tears, all the silent moments, all the thoughts sent to people who were involved in this event. What helped me was to focus on what I do have control over, so I spent the day after the attack having breakfast on our balcony with the smell of pumpkin bread and freshly squeezed orange juice. On the streets you could hear sirens and quietness at the same time. I never thought that was possible. I’ve minimized my exposure to the news because if we want to, we could have an update about our situation every two seconds. Really. It’s crazy how fast media channels work. And even crazier how fast fake news spreads.
I never thought that this day would become part of my life story. It shaped me and left a scar that lets me go through the world with a different view. There will always be danger and there are people who do bad things which you can not explain. But there is also hope and love. And a city that stands together with positive vibes and stories trusting itself to get its magic back.
This is a worldwide phenomenon and not just a scar in my life. I continue living with this experience and I am more awake than ever before. Senseless violence against innocent people is an incomprehensible thing. Having company, sharing thoughts, avoiding too much social media – all things I’ve been doing to understand what fear is and not let it limit myself.
Love over Fear, wherever you are and whatever situation you are confronted with. Let your emotions be there and accept them but I’m sure with spreading love and kindness, we can turn almost every fear into hope.
drawings by daniel zineldin