Students react to terrorist attacks

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The coverage of acts of terror and mass shootings are normally reported by adults and, with the exception of the Parkland mass shooting, adults are interviewed as eyewitnesses. As a result, we listen to and watch adults tell their stories. We learn how they were impacted and their lives changed. Even though young adults are also deeply affected by these events, we rarely have their perspective on these tragedies. Three Columbia College student journalists recalled their encounters with terror and mass shooting and wrote stories about their experiences.

Rachell Harglerode shares tragic European experience

The Eiffel Tower standing tall in Paris, France, the same city where a terrorist attack was held on one of its most famous streets.

In the summer of 2017, tragedy struck London. In two different attacks, one on London Bridge and another in Borough Market, 48 innocent people were injured and seven were killed, one of whom like me, was a tourist. I, and a group of people I cared about, could have been included in those numbers. Just twelve short hours separated us from serious injury or death. Not once but twice, my group and I escaped the grasps of terror that took place in Europe.

During June, I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe. My family told me to pack things like extra clothing and the right adapters, but nothing could have prepared me for what would take place as we flew toward our destinations.

Our first stop was London, where we saw beautiful architecture, a great community and just an all around magical place. Little did we know the same sidewalks we were walking on would soon be filled with shrines and memorials for the lives lost in the terrorist attacks that would devastate the heart of London.

We got the awful news as we were on the ferry to our next stop. No one knew what to say or how to respond. All we knew was that we were lucky to be alive and heartbroken for the community that we had fallen in love with just hours ago.

Our group continued to grow closer because of this frightful experience as we embarked on our last stop, Paris. On our last day in Europe, we walked along the famous street name Champs Elysees. The flight back home was filled with even more sadness and fear as we got another news report: A building on the Champs Elysees, that I was standing in front of the day before, had been rammed into by a man driving a vehicle filled with guns and explosives. Again there was death, injury and destruction. Once again, our lives had been spared by mere hours. Until then, I had always heard about these tragedies from TV, sitting safely on my couch. Never in my life could I have imagined I would be that close to not one but two tragic terrorists attacks in a matter of a week.

My mother lived a block away from the Pulse nightclub the night of the attack in 2016. I heard about the attack an hour after it happened. My first response was to call my mom and for her to tell me that she was alright. When I called, she didn’t answer. My mind was racing.

Alexis Atkins shares Pulse Nightclub Attack experience

Tributes to the victims of the terror attack at Pulse Nightclub and a heartening message for the city of Orlando, Florida.

This was a shocking experience. This was a community that I’d been a part of for a long time. I knew the streets and I knew the liveliness of the people in this city. I was scared not only for my mom but for the whole city of Orlando, including those individuals who were in the night club.

The morning after the attack my mom called and reassured me that she was fine. She was just as shaken as I was over this devastating news. A week later, I was also in Orlando, and my mom and I made sure to do all we could to support each other and those who were directly affected by what happened.

Nikole Rivers remembers Mother Emanuel massacre

June 17, 2015, will be a day that will live in infamy. Nine innocent lives were lost at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, because of racial hatred. The people that I had laughed and talked with would be taken from me, their families and the world.

Emanuel AME Church, also known as Mother Emanuel, is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South. Founded in 1816, the church was built by John Henry Deveraux and other enslaved and free African Americans. In 1822, Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, was accused of planning a slave revolt. Vesey and five others were executed on July 2nd.  Additional trials took place over time and more than 30 men would be executed. A crowd of whites burned down the church. After that, the congregation met underground and, when the Civil War ended, rebuilt the church.

Not only is Emanuel AME historically important, it is important to me because I grew up in the church. In the AME church, we have a division exclusively for young people called YPD (Young People’s Division). Because of YPD, we often traveled to Emanuel to have our meetings, choir rehearsals and worship services. We enjoyed attending this church because of the great atmosphere, steep stairs and its pastor, who had the deepest voice you could ever hear. All this made this church full of fun and memories that will last a lifetime. Nothing could prepare me for the fateful memories I would also have after the night of June 17th.

It had been a normal night until I heard my mother yell from her room. I remember dropping all my things and running to her. There on TV was the church we gathered at to pray, worship or just attend youth activities. As I listened to the news reporter announce that lives were lost, I began to pray for the man who encouraged us, prayed for us and led that church, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Not long after, I heard the news that he, along with eight others had been killed. At that moment my heart began to ache. The aching pain was like no other pain I ever experienced. I cried all night and into the next morning. I thought to myself, how could a person come into not just the church but bible study, where he was welcomed with open arms, and kill nine people just because of their skin color? Why did this happen in a place where we come to worship together, a place that is supposed to be safe from all the chaos of the world?

When I reflect back to that day, my heart still gets heavy but the pain goes away because what was meant to cause evil turned around to become good. A couple of months later, I returned to the church for a big program. I went into the vestibule and met a white family. They were looking at a picture of the slain pastor. The little boy turned to his mom and dad and said that he “wanted to be like Clementa Pinckney.”

At that very moment the pain and hatred that I had went away. This little boy didn’t see color. He saw a man. I didn’t say anything to them but I smiled and went back inside the church. I returned to my seat in the sanctuary and began to reflect on everything that happened. Dylan Roof came into our church and killed nine people hoping to ignite a race war and he failed. He failed because in the end the community, state and world came together to unite against racial hatred.

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