by Candice LeSueur
All of us on the train huddled together in the middle section away from the windows hoping to not be discovered by whoever was putting us in danger. My friend and I desperately embraced each other in silence as we horrifyingly awaited our fate. I heard everyone gasp. When I turned my head, I suddenly became petrified as I watched the gunman enter our refuge.
Thankfully, I woke up before I dreamt anything further.
This nightmare is an example from my own life of what secondary trauma looks like.
I awoke from this after learning the day before about the two separate shootings that happened in Orlando this past weekend—the first killing young singer Christina Grimmie after her concert, and the second occurring just hours later at the nightclub leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded. While reading up on both cases, I felt immense sorrow for the victims who were killed knowing they experienced such terror in their last moments. I also felt absolutely distraught for their loved ones who now have to mourn their loss by going through a most difficult grieving process.
As I continued reading different opinions of what others had to say about these intentional disasters, trying to make sense of what they are feeling and put it into words, I realized that the rest of the world, although not directly affected, could now suffer secondary trauma from this event. This means that we will feel similar symptoms as those who go through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after hearing about the firsthand trauma experiences by others.
I have recognized my own symptoms making themselves known to me the past couple of days. They have risen in different situations, such as when I was out to dinner with a friend and held my breath wondering if the man who I watched walk into the restaurant was carrying a gun, and, of course, there was the nightmare I already shared that caused me to wake up in a panic. Even this morning, I heard a nearby building’s fire alarm go off, which sent me imagining an emergency lockdown taking place where the people inside were hiding under their desks hoping to soon get out alive.
This secondary trauma has obviously caused me to have fears that I haven’t felt since 9/11. I fear to be targeted amongst large masses of people. I fear intruders. I fear even more new security measures being put into place. I fear for what our future will look like. And most of all, I fear for our children.
I caught myself wondering, what are we to do in a world with so much evil? I can’t just be living in fear every day. And then I loved what Jimmy Fallon had to say about the Orlando shooting in his opening monologue last night: “There will always be more good than evil.” Jimmy couldn’t be more right.
This statement helped me recall a scripture I love from the Bible: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16). The goodness and light that exist will always be more powerful than the hate and darkness that contaminate this world. And if you believe in angels, like this scripture refers to, you will know we are constantly being helped by those we cannot see on the other side to bear us up in times like these. We can be angels for others, too.
We need to continue living with faith. We need to teach unconditional love to our children and be an example of it. We must not let the trauma from attacks like these cause us to shrink in fear, but to continue holding on to the good things in life and forgive others.
Gertrude Merced, whose son was one of the victims killed in the Orlando nightclub, has set a perfect example of this and was reported as saying, “I still believe God is great. I still believe we can have forgiveness even in this. I’m gonna see him again one day, and I’m gonna hold onto that. There’s always room for forgiveness.”