People gathered around the candles and flowers in the middle of the square. Some held a single rose to add to the collection. Others prayed before candles. One little boy was lighting as many candles as he could right in front of him, while the wind kept blowing them out. He kept at the task with ferver, and it was quite a symbol of keeping hope alive. There are banners and flags from many languages and countries hanging from the columns and the statues and down the stairs. They all expressed messages of hope and solidarity and anger at the hate and fear that brought about the memorial in the first place. Chalk writing is everywhere on the steps and the sides of the building and sidewalks. Messages of love, hope, and even frustration at the system which fear and terror are bred into. It is really quite something to take in. Then there were people all over the steps. Many were sitting down just reflecting, taking in the scene in the sunshine. One man, near the side, was playing guitar and singing. People were nodding along and at one point spontaneously began clapping along. It is such a unique experience to grieve and process together with a group of strangers united by common emotions.
All wasn't nice and serene though. In stark contrast to the private, internal nature of the memorial, news vans packed the square. Pop-up tents, lights, microphones and cameras were everywhere. Anchors from major American stations to smaller global networks were all around. In order to get to sections of the candles and flowers we had to thread through cords and cables, news anchors and tents. It was hard not to feel imposed on by the reporting happening in the midst of such private emotion. Feelings of frustration gave way to anger as I watched the crowd enjoying the music. Suddenly a camerawoman and her assistant with a huge microphone rushed through the throngs of people on the steps to capture the guitar player and crowd participation. They stepped over and through the seas of people, pushing through without any care for the moment except the sell of the story. It was a harsh contrast to the pensive attitude of the crowd assembled. As we made our way back to the car we walked along the side of the square and all the emotion was swirling inside. How dare broadcasters keep selling pain and grief when there was no other "news" developing. Who invited them into the private solidarity that has sprung up as a symbol of hope after terror? How dare they invade such a sacred space? The photo above captured the contrast perfectly as my emotions collided.
I know the world has been at our back yard this last week. I understand, I too have been glued to the news, waiting for each and every piece of the story. In fact, I am as much at fault for the imposition of the news into that space as the big business that employs each station. That was a bit of a sobering reality to me. It has made me re-consider how and what I want to consume for news. It has made me set aside the phone and quit perusing every last update. It has made me stop looking at all the images, I purposely did not look into images of the weekend attacks for this reason. I understand telling the story is important. I have some very dear friends who are journalists. There is a huge difference in telling the story at the expense of human dignity though. That is what I see more and more. That is what I want to stop participating in. We have to stop consuming the sensationalism and fear that is being flaunted in our faces. Only then will the agencies change their approach. Of course, I know I cannot change the industry. But today, it matters enough to me that I will change my behavior. And when enough individuals change their behavior, culture changes. That is how I choose to let love win today. It is something I can do.