On July 16th, 2015, a terrorist attack happened less than five miles from me.
I was sitting at home, doing whatever. Who even knows. Then the news came in that a deranged man shot up an military recruitment building in Chattanooga. Then he got in his car, drove to a Navy Reserve center, and shot it up as well.
5 people died, and two were injured. The man wasn’t ISIS, but he had been influenced by jihadi propaganda on the internet, as well as mental health and drug abuse problems. Right here, where I lived, where I never even considered the possibility of something like this happening, some depraved being went on a rampage committed a mass shooting.
It was a tragedy. I felt terrible, I felt angry… but I never felt scared. And, honestly, my feelings faded more quickly than I would like to admit.
In fact, my most prominent memory of the entire event was several days later, when I was annoyed because I was almost late to a movie because of the traffic caused by spillover from a memorial service that had ended earlier that day. The fact it was something so stupid as a movie, let alone that the movie was Pixels, made me feel guilty, made me realize that even when something this awful had happened so close to me, it hadn’t impacted me any more or less than any other mass shooting, any other terrorist attack.
I had been desensitized, and it took me until that shameful moment to realize it.
There have been so many senseless acts of violence in the United States, across the world, over the past decade. The shootings and bombings and car rammings have been so large in number, displayed so prominently in our world of instant news, that an attack in my own city didn’t affect me longer than a week. How could it get to this?
I think at this point… I just end up trying not to think about it.
Seeing the 2015 Paris Attacks unfold in real-time on Twitter devastated me. I was in a university library at the time, and it got to the point I had to go to the restroom so I wouldn’t disrupt everyone around me by crying. But after a week or two… I’d gotten over it. I recovered, even if so many real people did not.
I know it’s the wrong thing to do, I know it’s exactly the way violence is normalized and societies are plunged into darkness, but I can’t help it. I can’t bring myself to read the coverage of, or watch the videos for, the horrible things that happen seemingly every month where disturbed people do disturbing things and countless lives are ruined. When an attack happens now, I mostly look at the news, sigh, and close the tab.
What else can I do if there is nothing I can change, nothing my thoughts or prayers can accomplish? That’s been my thought process, as much as I hate to admit it.
I don’t know if that says more about my emotional constitution, or more about the state of the world throughout the 2010s. Five years after a terrorist attacked my hometown, that event is barely a blip in my life story. I wish it weren’t, but I think I’m not strong enough to carry things like that with me for long enough.