Candles, flowers and vigils

When horrible things happen to people, like being killed in a shooting or a terrorist attack or a tragic accident, people stream to the spot where the deaths occurred to light candles, drop off flowers, and quietly sorrow together. Some huddle in groups to pray, sing together, or simply just cry, and sometimes the vigils last for several days and nights. And no matter how risky it might be after a terrorist attack to gather in a large group at the site of the tragedy, there is no stopping people doing it.

I remember when the 9/11 attacks occurred that my immediate instinct was to be with people. I needed to talk about what happened and why. I needed to hear what other people were saying. I needed to be with people as bewildered and shocked as I was. I needed that, and so did a lot of other people, it seems, because the coffee shop I sat in was packed. Some sat quietly saying nothing, others had to let their emotions run free, but both groups needed the comfort of other people near them, just as I did.

Perhaps the terrorists themselves have noticed this phenomenon, that when they pull off a shocking attack with great success, people come out into the open to be together. There’s fear, yes, and the natural instinct to run to safety and hide during an attack, but soon after the attack is over people come out of hiding to feel the comfort of other people, to show they deeply care for those who suffered and died, and to prove to the terrorists that all they’ve done is draw the world closer together and released more love.

So take a good, hard look terrorists, because what you’ve done is shown us what’s really tucked away inside us when the chips are down – and it’s very encouraging. It’s deeply heartening to discover that, faced with terror or tragedy, we humans naturally band together, we grow in strength from being with each other, we feel compassion, we want to help, and we won’t rest until justice is done on behalf of the victims.

What must a terrorist be thinking, then, when he sees vigils springing up worldwide, and people coming out into the open to light candles, drop off flowers, and be together – in nations that weren’t even directly affected by the attack too? Will it dawn on him that humanity is a family, and threats only bring us closer? And what if we decide as a family to go to our heavenly Father for help, taking into account that terrorists are already causing many people to pray?…


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