Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#ManchesterBombing: This One's Personal

See that picture? That's my extended family and me back stage with Ariana Grande after one of her concerts. The four little girls in the front are friends of the family. More on them later. 

No, we didn't win a radio station contest. Ariana is my cousin. And what happened in Manchester is personal—but not just because we're relatives. 

I teach in a K-4 school. My students are between the ages of five and ten. Many of them love Ariana, and they know we are related, but they're little, so I get questions like, "Is Ariana Grande really your daughter?" or "Is Ariana Grande really your sister?" They ask if she will come do a concert, if I can get her autograph. You get the idea. 

Her concerts are full of starry-eyed little girls, 'tweens and teens just like some of my students; just like all the little girls in that picture. The Manchester concert was no different. They wear their computer-operated cat ears that blink on and off in sync with the music. They know the words to every song and sing them louder than I remember singing at a concert when I was young (or maybe it just seems that way because I'm older). They worship Ariana because she is a pop star with Nickelodeon roots. She's 23 but looks much younger.

Georgina Callendar and Ariana in 2015
There's a special place in hell for people who hurt children. Children like 18 year old Georgina Callendar, the first named Manchester victim. Or 8-year old Saffie-Rose Roussos, the youngest.

Saffie-Rose Roussos

Earlier today, these young people were still among the missing...

Braces. Pimples. Are they alive? Have they lived long enough to even have their first crush let alone their first kiss? This scenario gets played out far too often: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Syria, and many more I should include, but after a while, my mind kind of numbs out to it all. I mean the victims no disrespect; it's just 6 degrees of PTSD, I guess.

My good friend, Rosi Efthim, of the Progressive blog, Blue Jersey, posted a touching tribute to the Manchester victims, including this poem by Maggie Smith:

This is the reality from which parents in the 21st Century desperately try to shield our children. I think of my own daughter, who will be going to college in another country. The fear of 'what if' knocks at my heart's door, but I refuse to let it in. I have to be strong for her—and myself. I have to show her how to stare down fear with the biggest, bad-ass face of steel wrapped in love and warmth I can muster, because if all she knows is the "shithole" of fear, how could she ever hope to "make this place beautiful"?

Every one of the people who died made a place beautiful for someone just by the very fact of their existence. That's what we have to do. No matter how hard or how painful or how often we want to just say, 'fuck it' and throw in the towel, and give in to the fear and hatred and rage over yet another innocent life lost, we have to continue to go out and make our place beautiful for someone somehow, to show them their lives were not lived in vain, because that is how love wins.