I was five years old, and had just started kindergarten.
And that’s all I remember.
That was 15 years ago. And unfortunately, there are 2,977 individuals who will never have a memory of September 11, 2001.
July 7, 2005, 53 people were killed in London. November 13, 2015, 137 people were killed in Paris. June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed in Orlando.
I’m leaving out hundreds, if not thousands of tragic events, not because they aren’t worthy of being mentioned, but because there are simply too many to put in to one post. Because for years, innocent people have been waking up, not knowing what tragedy the next day would hold, and only having a clue once it was too late.
And why would they? None of us wake up expecting to be faced with the greatest of tragedies. Frankly, unless there’s something dead-set in the plans for the day, the majority of us don’t wake up expecting much more than one thing:
To go to bed that night.
That never happens for many people on a daily basis. For one reason or another, all around the world there are so many people waking up each morning not knowing that it is their last. Not knowing that their cup of coffee or slice of toast or kiss on the cheek that morning will be their last. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s reality.
No one acts like it. Hell, most teenagers are still convinced, to some extent, that they’re invincible. One would think that, with such a tragic reality always looming, people wouldn’t take things for granted all the time. But we do. Is it because we know it’s, for the most part, out of our control? Or are we just stupid? Does this false sense of “that will never happen to me” completely blind us to reality? After all, with seven billion people in the world, I guess the odds are pretty small that something would happen to you.
That’s a little more freaky when you consider that approximately 150,000 people die each day (according to ecology.com), though, isn’t it? And wouldn’t we live a lot differently if we knew when our clock of life struck zero?
But taking things for granted isn’t just about death. Consider on a daily basis things that we take for granted: your health, your hair, your family, your ability to see or to move, or having all of the parts of your body not only intact but functioning. A roof over your head, food in front of you, the phone or computer that you are reading this on. What if one of those things was taken from you?
One day you find out you have cancer, and due to chemotherapy you’re going to lose your hair. If you were to survive, you’d most likely never take even an eyelash for granted again.
One day you’re in a car accident. Your leg is pinned. The only way to save you is to saw that leg off. You’d most likely never take your other leg, or any part of your body, for granted again.
One day a tornado strikes, and your home is destroyed. You have to stay at a shelter or a hotel for months until your house is rebuilt. You’d most likely never take some form of shelter for granted ever again. This one I can speak to.
When I was going in to fourth grade, our house flooded while we were on vacation to Canada. A pipe behind an upstairs toilet broke, and for weeks water spread throughout our house. The mold that formed required us to have the entire house stripped like it tried to carry an open water bottle on to a plane. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and (I believe) Easter in a hotel room. For almost the entire school year, I went home not to my house, but to a hotel. I can assure you, I have never taken my home for granted since.
Despite all of these terrifying possibilities (and keep in mind, I only listed a very select few), we continue to ignore them. Maybe we’re ignorant, maybe we’re arrogant, maybe we’re playing life like poker and hoping that the odds won’t betray us. People play the lottery and justify it by saying “well, someone’s gotta win,” but no one plays life and makes every day the best they can because “well, someone’s gotta get hit by a bus tomorrow.”
I’d say I’m not writing this to scare people, because that would make me feel bad about myself, but I don’t know if that’s true. My goal as a writer is for people to enjoy my work, not be afraid of it. So maybe, instead of using the term “scared,” I could say instead that my goal is to open people’s eyes. None of us are invincible. Maybe part of the whole thing is that some of you accept that death is part of life, and what could happen doesn’t scare you because you know it’s going to happen some day, somehow. But honestly, it scares me. It scares me that each day, something totally unexpected could happen to either myself or someone I’m close to, and it scares me that it could happen without me truly living each day. So yes, my goal of this post was to scare people enough to open their eyes to reality. Do what you enjoy and do it on a daily basis. Tell someone you love that you love them. Be happy and take care of yourself. Yes, the odds of something tragic happening to you are small, but what if one day, those odds weren’t in your favor?
What if one day the thing you took for granted wasn’t there anymore?