We teach younger children the same thing we have been taught by our parents and elders: be fearless and brave when faced with injustice and cruelty because courage and kindness conquer all.
Even if it wasn’t exactly that but something along those lines, we grew up with the notion that we cannot succumb to fear and be consumed by hatred. We must put our most valiant selves forward. This is the same mindset we pass on from generation to generation as the amount of hatred and malice continues to breed within the world.
But for some children raised in Europe, the years of their naive lives have been defined by terror attacks — the Paris shooting in April 2017, the Brussels bombing of March 2017, the Westminster attack of March 2017, the Bastille Day massacre July of 2016, the shooting at Charlie Hebdo January 2015 and many more.
All these mass attacks occurred in only a span of two to three years and this isn’t even the full list. Some kids have grown up alongside the increasing growth of attacks — shooting after shooting, bombing after bombing. The attacks on the innocent never cease.
Recently another disgusting act of terror occurred: the Manchester bombing at an Ariana Grande concert that left around 22 dead and more than 50 injured, most of whom were young, pre-teen girls. This was the act of a suicide bomber that detonated a shrapnel filled bomb and in one explosion destroyed any last sense of safety these young children will have for the remainder of their lives.
For as youthful and innocent as they are, they’ve lived through more than enough catastrophes to diminish their hope in society. Yet, in fact, it didn’t change their outlook on the world because they were taught to be their bravest selves and prove that fear won’t shake them, and they did just that. Their innocence and hope remained through it all.
This decision to make pre-adolescent children victims of such a horrific attack was disgustingly strategic and the possible reason for doing so is chilling. These children are the most pure of heart and naive, unaware of the terrors of the years before them. They are a force too focused on the goodness in the world to even notice the bad.
Terrorism may even be a foreign term to many depending on just how young they are. Most importantly, they are the future. This one act of terror has snatched away their innocence and bravery. It has diminished everything they were taught about courage and has replaced it with nightmares. It opened them up to the world of bombs and guns, mass deaths and terrorism, before they even reached adolescence. Their hope and positive outlook on humanity has disappeared and left them with a constant fear of all humans. They will not grow up overcoming the fear terrorism oppresses over them but rather they will grow up in the shadow of an attack that shaped their lives and their perspective of the world. They have been changed before they even reached major milestones and now they cannot go back. This suicide bomber has changed the future.
For many, this was the first concert their parents agreed to let them attend. Finally after all the pleading, their parents agreed to let them go see Ariana Grande perform, with them accompanying or not. It was a milestone to cherish forever, a coming of age, a memory to tell their children years later.
Ariana Grande is an unapologetically daring and confident pop singer who appeals to these girls through her music and style. They all gathered at this concert after anticipating it for months to finally see someone they idolize perform live. It was a feeling unlike any other for many of them. The concert drew to a close and the adrenaline was still rushing while the sadness of it being over combined with the feeling of awe of the show. Then a blast.
Parents and teenage girls and boys running, screaming. Parents yelling the names of their children as they frantically run amongst the stampede trying to escape. Children sobbing as they lost their parent and are alone amongst a crowd running away from those injured and killed. What was supposed to be a surreal night ended in what can only be described as worse than any nightmare. An 8-year-old girl’s life was taken that night when instead, she should have been giddy with the experience she just had while smiling ear-to-ear.
Music is meant to make people feel safe and comfortable. It gives them a chance to express who they are without any hatred and not be sorry for being themselves. Now, even music and concerts have been tainted by the fear of terrorism. No matter how often we were told not to succumb to fear and to be brave, one can only take so much terror. Fear has taken over us all. It has left individuals afraid to go to malls, on planes, to major holiday celebrations, to museums, to clubs and now to concerts. Terrorism has destroyed our sense of safety and now pre-teen girls will carry that burden for the rest of their lives.
During a night that should have ended at the merchandise booth with girls taking away t-shirts, it ended with an explosion and adolescents leaving with new fear, new nightmares and a constant sense of terror.