If Season 2020 wasn’t eventful enough…Vienna was shook by terrorist attacks, Monday 2nd of November at 8pm. The eve of the second lockdown; this Monday night was an opportunity to grab a last ‘after-work’ drink, the daily beer and meal out with friends. For the innocent victims, this really was the last time.
In a city, considered to be one of the safest cities in the world, in the safest district; a man opened fire and randomly aimed his shots at innocent civilians. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear and sense of utter helplessness that the people at the scene were feeling. Vienna is a city where, when you would hear a loud bang – regardless of the time of year – you would assume that it’s fireworks.
“Only in darkness can you see the stars.”
Even with my little life experience, I have realized that, more often than not, there is always something positive to be learnt or gained after an experience of hardship or struggle. I really believe that, in order to move into the future without living in constant fear we have to recognize the following: humanity is much more compassionate than we give credit for. On this evening, the people of Vienna, showed a sense of compassion which not even a terrorist could break.
Many theaters were staging the last evening of performances before the lockdown when the news of the attacks were reported. Instead of a panicked and a chaotic evacuation, the audience of The Vienna State Opera (1,000 people) , were serenaded by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as were the audience in the Konzerthaus, where the artists performed until 1:30am. The Actors at the Burgtheater, sat down onstage and spoke to their audience whilst a Movie Theater let visitors stay and watch movies of their choice and served complimentary drinks and snacks.
Taxi drivers stayed on the streets longer and drove people to safety, free of charge while a tram driver stopped between stations to make sure his passengers had the safest and quickest route home. Hotels sheltered many people and offered free rooms to those who couldn’t get home. What was especially touching, were the people who opened their homes for people looking for safety. These heartfelt stories, are only a small handful of what is to be told about that evening.
In under 10 minutes, law enforcement were able to take out the attacker and prevented further devastation. Two young civilians, with a Turkish and Muslim background, carried an injured police officer to safety, administered first aid and contacted medical support; which subsequently saved the officer’s life as well as bringing two women to safety. Their selfless and brave response, recognized them as ‘heroes of the night’.
“If the same thing were to happen again today, I would do the exact same thing without a second thought. Because we live in Austria, we stand with Austria.” ~Mikail Ozen
It would be ignorant to say that only the ‘Austrians’ responded with such compassion. It was the people of Vienna. Humanity responded with compassion and unity. Humanity is not defined by race, religion, nationality nor culture and this is something that we may have lost faith in. November 2nd, should be a reminder for us, that we are stronger when we stand together.
On this night, there was one gunman against the 1.9 million people of Vienna. But if the 1.9 million people continue to remember and fear this one man…our city would crumble into one of distress, anxiousness and suspicion. We have to remember those moments, where we saw, felt and were humanity.
If we continue from here with fear, worry and hatred; we have ultimately surrendered.
“Hass kann niemals so stark sein wie unsere Gemeinschaft in Freiheit”Alexander Van der Bellen
Austria’s President, Alexander Van der Bellen, gave a powerful and encouraging speech, in which he stated “Hatred can never be as strong as our fellowship in freedom, in democracy, in tolerance and love.”
This should encourage us and guide us to how we live our lives into the uncertainty of the future. We greatly underestimate the impact that our thoughts and our attitude have on our lives and ultimately, our well being. However, the most underestimated concept is the power that we have as a collective community.
We have to keep believing in the goodness of humanity. Just because the person on the phone pretended like they can’t do anything to help or the cashier at Hofer gave you anxiety and your waiter couldn’t spare a smile; doesn’t mean that kindness doesn’t exist. And as difficult as it might seem: just because one man terrorized our city, doesn’t mean that humanity is lost. We have to continue having faith in humanity. Without faith, there’s no hope.
Additionally, we can also become more conscious of our own behaviors and practice genuine acts of kindness. Compassion is also recognizing when someone else may need a smile or a friendly person to small talk with. Kindness and compassion is highly contagious; it would be nice to start spreading something else.
It goes without saying that our deepest sympathy goes to the victims and their families. I cannot even begin to imagine what they must be going through. I want to include a short excerpt from a deeply moving obituary from one of the victims, a 44-year old woman. In her obituary, written by her sister, she is eloquently described and praised and admired for her fight for tolerance and equality; regardless of race, culture, gender, religions, beliefs and appearances.
“If my sister could still speak, she would thank you for the sympathy. But next she would say this sympathy is of no use to her. She would ask you to give your concern to the living who need them. She would ask you wherever it is possible in your environment, do not exclude, but integrate, answer aggression not with aggression, but with a clear “stop, not like this”, and then offer help. You cannot change the world, but you can change your behavior.”
Wir sind alle Wien.