By Justina Sharp, 18
Tonight is a terrible night in Paris. As I write from my living room in Germany, my phone lights up with updates bringing rising numbers that add up into a senseless tragedy. A beautiful city, attacked once again in a year that's taken a great toll. Now, in one night, a death toll rises by far too great a number. People’s lives are changed forever.
Because of the internet, we are all in Paris, and we are all watching the world react. Many of us are also suddenly feeling as though we came much too close to something that should never have happened. A month ago, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to Paris for my 18th birthday after suspected extremists attacked military officials on a train. An hour ago, I was doing a Buzzed quiz when the first panicked “Are you OK?” text arrived from a friend in California who saw on Twitter that something terrible had happened.
Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. They have linked us all together, turning thousands of miles into nothing more than a few seconds loading time. We can see everything as it happens, and are suddenly given the opportunity to voice our thoughts. Around the world, #PrayForParis is being tapped into status updates, alongside thoughts, prayers and news. People are seeking comfort, or looking to correct their confusion, or just trying to make sure their loved ones are safe. Because of the internet, we are not disconnected beings, existing in our own world. We are one people, watching as an act of terror rips into a city known for love and light.
From a podium in the White House tonight, in a voice that was too full of an emotion that has become too familiar, President Obama spoke to the world. “This is an attack not just on Paris, it is an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity, and the universal values we share.”
Almost as he said it, his words rolled across my Twitter feed, with dozens of outlets updating by the second, interspersed with the announcement that President Hollande closed the borders. Shutting the country off from the outside physically, even as hundreds of people speak to the world of what they are living from their phones. Their nightmare is cut by a brand's automated advertisement for a sale, garish in its ignorance. This is truly what it is to live in the digital age. Nothing is ever hidden, nothing is ever too far away. But not everyone is paying attention.
Tonight, we stay awake. We comfort each other, we assure our family members we are safe, and grieve for those whose are not. We share our news, connecting from wherever we are in the world. Hopefully, we can pick up the pieces, and help France put its world back together.