I’m Here Reacting | #OurLondonFamily

Image of #OurLondonFamily graphic circulated in the wake of the terrorist attacks in London, Ontario.

Trigger Warning:

This post contains discussion of the recent terrorist attack in London, Ontario and documents my experience of hearing the news.

I was sitting in a warehouse in Halifax, waiting to be called to set, when I found out about the terrorist attack in London, Ontario. I heard the news from my dad, in a text message, “Are you hearing about what happened here on Hyde Park Road last night? It is horrific.”

I went to Twitter and searched “Hyde Park.” I came across posts about a stabbing in London, England and wondered, briefly, if my dad had the story wrong. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the news, but in the end, I got my information from Craig Needles as he listened to the press conference with London Police Chief Stephen Williams.

I scrolled through Twitter and looked at the profiles of Muslim friends, colleagues, and community organizations. Each time that I came back to my feed I read another comment from an acquaintance or politician expressing solidarity, naming feelings, or explaining something.

The background noise in the warehouse turned into a fuzzy vacuum of not-quite-sound and I started to get hot.

I started to like posts: Craig Needles, Sherine Fahmy, Selma Tobah, London West NDP, Mariam Hamou, Dr. Muna Saleh, and Ali Chahbar, and retweeted one: Dr. Ingrid Mattson. I started to compose a tweet a few times, but didn’t finish writing any.

I made a donation.

I wrote in my notebook.

  • “My house” because the attack happened 5 minutes from where I grew up.
  • “Road hockey” because my friend hosted our games nearby.
  • “Sad, heartsick, love, acceptance” because they crossed my heart.
  • “One small thing” because it’s what I knew to offer.

I wrote down quotations that made me feel hope:

  • “We will respond to those trying to inflict terror on our community with love.”
  • “He is a son of our community and we are all his family.”

I wrote down quotations that made me feel critical:

  • “Our community is safe.”
  • “Like all Londoners.”

And then, I wrote some questions:

  • How can I take responsibility for this man?
  • What can my people do?
  • When I say, “my people” who do I mean?
  • What is our responsibility when we notice danger and hatred in one of our own?

I turned the page and started to handwrite a tweet. I scribbled it out and didn’t start again.

They called us to set, we did our scene, and I walked out into the evening, speaking to another actor, a Black man who I’d met minutes before. We walked to our cars, talking, and I felt his generosity wash over me. I got in the car, called my partner, talked about what had happened, and drove over the bridge, back to Halifax.

I hung up the phone as I opened the apartment door and finished my sentence out loud. We talked for 5 more minutes, while I toasted pieces of raisin bread. We paused so that I could attend a songwriting session. I worked on a song for the next 90 minutes. We wrote about “salt,” its edges and angles. The session ended and I stayed behind to share another question: How will my art respond to this moment?

I got off the call, dropped onto the love seat and scrolled through Twitter again. I judged what people were saying and struggled to see more than white people, leaders, and institutions venting their discomfort. I wondered how much we were, on the whole, sharing love and comfort, rather than projecting the burden of our shame on others. I wondered if I should broadcast my reaction, if it was important.

My partner and I called my dad and sister. It was uncomfortable to get into the conversation, but we began. We talked about how anti-Islamic behaviour, Islamophobia, and racism, are part of London. We talked about our friends, the people connected to the Muslim community, and about what might do right by them. We talked about how to take responsibility for those with hateful thoughts; how to encourage them to come forward, into spaces that stop them from becoming their thoughts and how to hold them accountable before they act.

And then it was midnight and we decided to stop.

I texted a close friend before I went to sleep. We remembered the last time that we were on Hyde Park Road.

Yesterday I read more tweets, messaged with a friend, talked with my partner, and followed the vigil online. I thought about new language for new narratives and of the narratives that need to be retired. I remembered my first time in the Mosque; my second time in the Mosque; my conversations with the Muslim Students’ Association at Western; the Minister of Diversity on the Oakridge Student Parliament who was patient with me; the Ramadan dinners I’ve attended; the welcomes I’ve received; the gratitude for being seen and respected.

Today, I woke up to a text from a friend. We talked about how we felt, about patience, acceptance, and non-striving. We texted about what constitutes hypocrisy and what might be enough. I sat in a room and told people that I was from London. The white people shared condolences with me. I thanked them. The Black people sent prayers and love to the family and the community. I joined them.

And then I wrote. And as I wrote, I thought about the beautiful people who are no longer with us.

And then, I still didn’t send a tweet.

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