Time and space presents us with moments where we are forced to reconsider the lives we live.
Checkpoints that make us think about the meaning of our own individual journeys.
On Friday the 9th of December 2016, only one day after my arrival in Germany, a family friend and I visited the historic ‘Altstadt’ of Düsseldorf on a late afternoon excursion with the most innocent of intentions. A bit of sightseeing, delicious food and some unmatched Christmas market experiences – it was going to be amazing!
Unfortunately, I was struck down at the first hurdle – yes, a bowl of fries and mayo. It seemed the sauce contained gluten, wrecking havoc with my violently gluten intolerant body. What a way to go down.
And yet, the greatest shock was still to come.
Just over a month later, reports of a planned terror attack in Germany were leaked into the media. Investigators claimed it was set up as a precursor to the tragic events in Berlin only days before Christmas.
Date: Friday 9th
Location: Düsseldorf ‘Altstadt’
Yes, that’s right – the exact time, moment and place where I was walking should have been another bloodbath.
After investigating, police found that the terrorists were planning to demolish the area with machine guns, shooting randomly onto the public before committing suicide with explosives attached to their bodies – hence destroying everything in their vicinity.
Authorities raided the terrorist headquarters early that afternoon. 3 hours before death row was to begin. 3 hours which made all the difference. 3 hours which saved the lives of thousands. How can you repay that?
With brutal recognition as I heard the news, I couldn’t quite believe it.
I was almost in a terror attack. I was almost dead.
Even saying those words feel strange. As if they don’t fit to this mouth of mine. The mouth of a young man who has been sheltered with the knowledge that New Zealand is far away from the heart of global terrorism.
But then again, it was almost. Thankfully.
I am still here today. Still here to live, love and learn. Still here to tell bad jokes. Still here. Still here. Still here. Even saying these words feels strange now.
I feel like I have had a near-death experience and yet, this wasn’t physical. I hadn’t been attacked, hit or driven into the ground.
I had been mentally assaulted. ISIS had gripped my core with their ice cold grip and refused to let go. They had me in the palm of their hand – without even having to lay a finger.
Fear is an emotion which plays with humanity’s ability to think rationally. It overrides all other senses and becomes the primary tool for decision making. Which is exactly what the extremists want.
If we break down in the face of adversity, they win.
And we simply cannot let that happen.
So let’s face the music – keep doing what we’re doing.
Don’t buckle down to the fear.
Because humanity’s greatest strength is not it’s physical dimension, but it’s capacity to think.