On the ninth of September 2001 I was sitting, front of house, at the online news corporation giant I worked for. There were news feed TV channels, banked floor to ceiling, across the walls. I watched, live, as the second plane hit the World Trade Centre on that world changing day.
As you can imagine, being at work that day will always be with me. There were decisions to be made about what ethically could be streamed, how the site could stay up with the volume of traffic it was receiving and the panic that was ricocheting around the building.
Colleagues not on the news front line were standing around TV screens, not sure whether to go home, keep working or just stare at the TV. People were talking to everyone and anyone, sharing the horrors, crying, outraged, not really knowing what to do. We were a community, bound together in our horror, grief and anxiety. There was a shared sense of the knowledge of the impact of what had happened and a complete overload of visual input showing the entire catastrophe unfolding.
Fast forwarding 15 years, to the devastating news of Tuesday’s Brussels bombings. The way I consumed the news of these atrocities has somewhat changed.
I found out about the horrific attacks in a six word text from my husband. He’d been in Brussels recently so it had really hit home with him. I barely glanced at my phone over an hour later to see the shocking news.
I’d been out on a trip with the Small Boy’s nursery and was busy bundling him into the car when I read the awful message. I immediately tried to put the car radio on to hear updates in a desperate attempt to feel connected to the real world. The Small Boy was having none of it though, so it was quickly switched off. Back at home I checked my phone and scoured the news apps for information about what had happened. I’d barely read the headlines before he needed me for something or other. I had such a strong urge to put the TV on, but feared what it might be showing, I didn’t want to share what might be on the screen with a three year old. I tried again to listen to the radio whilst I got on with chores, but the news cycle had moved on and I kept missing the hourly news bulletins.
Before long I was pulled back into my day job, there were toys to tidy, breakfast pots to put away and things to get ready for the girls swimming lesson. We dashed to school to collect the girls and what with the sticker book action pool-side with the small boy, the chopping the vegetables for the dinner when we got home and the homework checking that ensued there was no time to hear news of the real world.
It was all in my head though, going round and round what an awful, awful thing to happen to anyone, anywhere. I wanted to tell someone, so I had someone to say that to, but there was nobody. I wanted to ask someone if they’d heard. Share how dreadful it was. Feel a sense of solidarity and unity against a force of evil so vile. There was still no one there.
Then Mr P came home, and it was dinner and not a topic appropriate for table talk, so I stewed on, with the worries of the world going round and round in my head.
It wasn’t until Mr P was putting the children to bed at 7pm that I got to sit down and watch the Channel 4 news headlines, to understand what had really happened. To hear first hand what state our world was on that night.
I saw on the Channel 4 news that at Place de las Bourse, Brussels, thousands of people had come together in unity and solidarity, there was a man with a sign offering free hugs. At times like these communities need to come together to show their support for each other. People need hugs. We need to know we’re in this together. When you’re at home all day, alone (if only), slogging your guts out, raising a family, this is not an easy thing to feel.
So, I wanted to tell all you Mamas out there who are grasping at snippets of the real world, desperately trying to hear how your world has just changed forever, in-between someone kicking the back of your car seat, that I feel what you’re going through. I get that you just want two minutes to hear what’s happened and you’re so frustrated that you can’t. I get that you feel isolated from what’s really happening out there. I get that you just want to turn to someone to say ‘I can’t believe it, how horrendous, it’s terrifying’ and yet you just have to go on chopping vegetables, checking homework and picking up toys.
Just because you can’t stand in solidarity in a city square, share your outrage with your colleagues or speak out about your feelings to others doesn’t mean they matter any the less. I am standing with you. I’m sending you a virtual hug. You’re not alone. I am your community. I stand with Brussels from the confines of my kitchen, but I’m still standing.