A moment of silence for victims of terrorism around the world
NYU stands in solidarity with you
I was one of the thousands trying to make sense of the devastating news flooding my live feed as I sat in my Air BnB stay during my visit to Rome this past weekend.
I didn’t know what else to do but stay on my phone, scrolling through my social media in efforts to piece together this mind boggling atrocity. I was too terrified to look out the window considering I was in one of the most important cities in Western European history and just as much of a target as anyone else might have felt that night.
But what really sent goosebumps down my spine was the moment that my friend Nora said, “I was just in Paris two weeks ago” and I realized the number NYU students who had not only just recently visited Paris over fall break, but were currently living in Paris to study for the semester.
“I thought about how close I had stayed to the restaurant where the shootings happened. My stay was two blocks from the restaurant and I remember walking by it during my visit to Paris for fall break. Like, literally, if I had been there one week later I could have been in so much danger. I thought about how nice everyone in Paris had been and how welcoming they were to me being a foreigner and I feel terrible for everyone who has to deal with this now.”
Immediately after receiving the news of the attack, Florence student Helen You contacted the NYU Class of 2019 Facebook page concerned for everyone’s well being. It was through this outreach that a stream of comments from an NYU Paris student Ethan D’spain informed us that a group of Paris students left one of the targeted restaurants just minutes before the attack because they decided they didn’t like the menu.
Thankfully, all 100 NYU Paris students, as well as all staff and faculty are safe and accounted for as confirmed in the most recent emails sent on November 14th from NYU President John Sexton and Dean of Liberal Studies Fred Schwarzbach.
All NYU Florence students have also been confirmed safe after several students left Florence to travel for the weekend, including a vast majority of the Liberal Studies freshmen who, like myself, visited Rome on a class trip. The Facebook comments also informed us of a group of NYU London students who visited Paris for the weekend and have fortunately returned to campus safe.
At NYU’s most recent Student Diversity Community Forum, Sana Mayat, a board member of the NYU Muslim Students Association, gave a poignant speech on international solidarity portrayed in the media and the backlash toward American and international Muslims after terrorist events like those in Paris and on 9/11. Mayat said:“I’m hurting because ignorance and hate forces me to worry about myself when I should be worried about those families that have lost sisters and brothers and fathers and mothers. I’m hurting but I’m also confused why I also have to keep showing that I’m hurting just to make people believe that I’m human.”
The recent Facebook profile picture solidarity movement for Paris spurred much talk about Eurocentrism and whitewashing in the media — how various news outlets shined an uneven amount of light on this incident in comparison to the spectrum of crises around the world which should all be perceived as equally relevant and horrid. It’s not just about sharing empathy through #JeSuisParis, it’s about empathizing and standing in solidarity with every other country suffering from terrorism, whether it be European, Middle Eastern, South American or African.
Expressing an unfortunately common sentiment, Michelle Deme, NYU Florence Liberal Studies Freshman, said, “Coming from a socially conservative community, every time I go on social media I see more and more comments generalizing Islam and Muslims saying that all Syrian refugees are a threat to national security. And I take this to a personal offense because I recently worked with a nonprofit called Karam Foundation which gives smart aid to Syria, and worked with refugees that came over from Syria and have family in Syria and I felt a personal connection with these people even as the only non Muslim working there. When you know people that are refugees and you hear people call them terrorists, it makes you angry because they are talking about your friends and loved ones.”
Just like Washington Square Arch, along with the rest of the world, draped itself in red, white and blue as a sign of compassion for the French in mourning, it should also light itself up in solidarity with the remaining nations that mourn for their own tragedies.
NYU Florence stands in solidarity with the victims of all terrorist attacks around the world because as a global academic community and active participants of European society, we not only mourn for the innocent Parisians who lost their lives this past weekend. We mourn for the lives lost from ongoing tragedies in Beirut, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, Baghdad among other violence stricken countries.
This moment of silence is for every refugee mother, father, son, daughter, infant and elder who left their lives thousands of miles behind in a country that was hardly recognizable to them anymore, only to arrive at their destination to be told they have no place to go because their sole presence threatens the safety of the very people from whom they sought empathy and compassion.
This moment of silence is for every ostracized minority blamed for the atrocities of an unrepresentative extremist group, and for every unnamed orphan forced to dodge bullets and hide from explosions amidst a war zone tirelessly praying for the bombings to cease forever so they may lead normal childhoods.
We are not defined by nations, religious groups, political parties, or polar opposite demographics historically marginalized by sociocultural misconceptions, conservatism and intolerance. We are a community of human beings and will stand in solidarity for one another’s pain as such.
On behalf of the NYU Florence student body, I beg for a world we can be proud of, a world where we can feel safe regardless of ethnic, religious or racial background. I beg for significant progressive action and promising political alternatives to put an end to this 21st century war of attrition. I beg for peace. I beg for respect.
To conclude, in Claire Bernish’s words from her most recent article published for themindunleashed.org:
“Grief on this scale is exhausting. And I’m very nearly out of tears.”