Yesterday I had a question from a friend here on Gather.
"Why does this even matter to you, you said yourself you were not there."
Ok, in case you don't know what my friend was talking about it was in regard to the emotions I expressed on a couple of recent articles I published here on Gather.
I completely understand her question, and I don't think it was at all insensitive because I know that unless you have lived through a random act of violence yourself you really cannot understand.
It got me thinking again about the day I knew there was something, someone, watching out for me in life. Honestly, I think about it all the time. You can't live through violence or terror and not think about it ever again.
I don't talk about it a lot, not even with my family, but sometimes it helps to talk about it even on random occassions when I feel I'm losing focus. Right after I graduated high school I was ready to head off, but my parents were hesitant about letting me jump straight into college at such a young age. I also knew if I went to college right away, I probably would not have the full college experience because of my age. So instead I made the decision to visit family in Spain, once there I convinced my parents to let me stay for a much longer period of time than they expected- that was relatively easy since I would just have to avoid boarding a plane.
I settled into life in Spain relatively quickly and by the time fall came around I decided to enroll in UCM and move to Madrid. I was excited, but my parents were nervous about my decision to stay and move to the big city away from my relatives. At the time there were a lot of political rumblings in Spain, but that was how it always was so it was easy to brush it aside- plus everything happened up North.
I loved the University and I spent every day exploring Madrid, and every weekend exploring the rest of Spain. I did not want to leave. This is where I wanted to live, to study, to love. Everything was great, except one thing. My family was an ocean away. I love my family like no other, then and now. I talked to my parents about my decision to apply for dual citizenship. They didn't argue with me, but I know they wanted me to come home.
I was very torn over my life in Spain where everything felt right and my life back home, where my family was but I didn't like the lifestyle. This went on for a while as I continued through my studies, my sibs came to visit me and the family, I went home for a couple breaks but always returned to Madrid.
I decided to apply to a couple universities that had offered me full scholarships after I graduated HS just to see what they would offer if I decided to come home. Before I heard back from any of them I began noticing a change in the atmosphere in Madrid, but I really didn't pay attention to it. After all, I was doing what I wanted to do and living my life without any cares.
One week I was watching the news after I got home from classes and didn't like the headline so I flipped stations before I heard the full story. A politican had been assassinated right in the streets of one of the big cities up North while walking home with his son, ETA claimed responsibility for the assassination. The image on the tv screen will always stay with me, because I saw a similar image the next week for myself.
The day I knew there was something bigger than me in my life, protecting me, watching me- call it what you want- came the same week as the shooting. Everything went wrong that morning, I forgot to toss my jeans in the dryer so I had to wear a dress, my toast wouldn't pop out of my screwed up toaster so I was left with bread shreds. Still I managed to make the same train to get to school on time.
I took the same route every day. Walk to subway, Cartagena to America, America to Goya, up the stairs and four blocks to school. My morning routine to school never changed the entire time I was enrolled.
But that morning I was totally unsettled, and I didn't know why. I got off the metra and I remember just standing in the station while people walked past me. When I finally got moving I had this really strong urge to take the tunnel to the other side of the street.
Why? I don't know.
It made absolutely no sense since it would take me away from school and put me on the other side of the street. Still, I kept looking down the tunnel and fighting the urge to head the way I always did. By the time I got to the end of the tunnel and started climbing the stairs I started talking to myself.
I remember asking myself what I was doing. This tunnel jog was going to make me late for class, and I am such a nerd that I never miss or am late for class. Before I could finish berating myself I hit the final step of the stairs and stepped out onto the street.
That's when the bomb went off.
Across the street and less halfway down the block from the subway entrance a car bomb blew up and killed two people, several others were hurt and bleeding. As I sat there staring at what just happened and tried to think again I saw the image that I had clicked away from earlier that week on the news. Same thing, blood running down the street.
No one wants to see that. No one wants to realize that.
I kept staring at the sidewalk entrance to the subway, I knew I had crossed for a reason. That sick feeling I had, that total urge to just get to the other end of the tunnel was for a reason.
Before all that happened I was trying to find my way back to the Church, but it just wasn't happening. I felt nothing spiritually. I decided that it was time to be with my family again. I really wished they could join me in Spain, and I still hope to live there permanently one day. But that day taught me that I needed my family in my life and not just over the phone because you never know when things are going to change.
Less then four years later something violent happened to me again, but in Chicago on the way home from school. Another random act, another thing we all here about on the news and think geez, that sucks. I prayed like hell through it though and I believe God answered my prayers because it ended before it got really bad.
Neither of these events has ever left me though, and I still deal with a lot of PTSD from the second. So when a friend calls me on the phone screaming and crying about a random act of violence that just happened in front of her, of course I am going to be emotionally involved. I know what she is going through, I know what kind of confusion it brings, how the beating of your heart in your head and chest feels, the way time stops and then all of a sudden comes flying at you. I know how it all feels and I feel it all over again.
It never leaves you.