I was fourteen when I first learned the word, “Casualty.” It was September 11th, 2001, I was a freshman in highschool, and that word, louder than “Tragedy” and “Terror,” rang out to me. I didn’t quite understand it at first. I gleaned that it must mean a person killed in an act of war, but didn’t that mean a soldier? Weren’t the people who worked in the World Trade Center civilians?
My confusion was rooted in my naivety. Sheltered my entire life in safe Seattle suburbs, 9/11/01 was the first time I realized that war wasn’t just historical. It wasn’t far away. It didn’t just mean fighters, fighting. It meant everyone, dying. “Casualty” meant you, me.
This past week I’ve felt jolted back into that hollowed-out feeling of fragility. I would love to write about other things on my mind—chess, travel, Charlie Brown—but even though I’ve thought about these things too, I’m distracted. My heart hurts.
A lot has been said and written in the wake of ISIS’s latest attacks. I was moved by the Blind Trust Project, where young, Muslim men blindfold themselves and ask for a hug. I was moved by Governor Inslee’s compelling argument of reason vs. fear in his decision to welcome refugees to Washington State. I was moved by the father who explained to his young son, “They might have guns, but we have flowers.” In comparison, I have no special knowledge or experience to share.
Humbly out-of-the-way, what I do have are feelings. Over the course of the past week, inside that hollowed-out feeling in my chest have emerged both grief and gratitude.
I grieve for those whose lives and loved ones were taken from them.
I am grateful for those who have shared their resources with people whose security has been threatened and destroyed.
I grieve for those who are so afraid of their own lives that they commit themselves to murderous ideology and action.
I am grateful for those who, no matter our human fear of death and the unknown, open their hearts to their own life and to the lives of others.
I grieve for those who remain trapped, voiceless and helpless.
I am grateful for my own fragile security and freedom.
It is not everything, but it is something to recognize the truth. It is something to finally realize that “Casualties” means people like you and me. It is something to remember that the love of life and others, not the fear of life and others, is the means to achieve healing, restorative justice.
“Restorative justice” is not a term one hears often. It is the theory that victims are a great, if not the greatest, force in re-establishing justice after injustice is committed. The focus is, on the one hand, acknowledgment of wrongdoing by offenders, and on the other, reconciliation with their victims and the community at large. It is a theory that recognizes the power victims, with the support of their community, have to heal not only themselves, but also the very world around them.
Maybe it’s naive to hope that terrorists may eventually realize the error of their ways. But it is an inspiration and a courageous call to justice when you are a victim of violence and hate, and in response, remind the rest of the world to love. I grieve with you, and am grateful for you.
Originally published by the West Seattle Herald 11/20/2015.