By Lama Tawakkol Senior Reporter Youth Journalism International
CAIRO, Egypt – I am in bed, listening to music and getting ready to get some sleep when I come across the news.
Paris is “under attack.” It doesn’t register, and the more I search for news, the more it didn’t make any sense. Everyone seems as confused as I am.
There are terrorist attacks on Paris that vary between bombings, explosions and straight out shootings, depending on the report. There is also a massive hostage situation and shooting at The Bataclan concert hall.
I frantically switch from one news website to the other and continuously refresh my Twitter feed in desperate quest for solid news.
Witness reports are shocked, scared, worried and confused.
Everything is chaotic as reports come of more casualties, injuries and reported attacks. Naturally, they seem to be coordinated.
I look for more news. I want something concrete. How many restaurants were targeted? Two or more? And have the hostages been rescued yet?
French President Francois Hollande has spoken after a meeting with the French prime minister and minister of interior. He looks shaken, they say, but he has deployed the military into the city, advised people to stay home, declared curfew and closed off the borders.
Paris is under attack.
U.S. President Barack Obama has also spoken, declaring the U.S. to be standing firmly with France.
New York City police have tightened security around the French Embassy, and there have been reports about a counterterrorism meeting in the U.S. to ensure there are no similar attacks.
I was eight in 2001, but I remember how shocked my mother was as she watched the 9/11 events unravel. I believe I now know exactly what that felt like. Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe it.
So far, French police have reported seven different attacks in Paris tonight. They have shut down streets, evacuated sites and kept people away.
Just a short while ago, they stormed into the theater, killing two attackers and freeing the rest of the hostages who had been pleading for help on social media. Reuters reported the death toll there to be at least 100.
There are telephone numbers being circulated on social media for people who want to check up on loved ones. Embassy numbers have also been spread.
Facebook set up a “Safe” option for people in the vicinity. Once they check it, it shows on their profiles, reassuring their family and friends.
There is so much going on in my head; I can’t even wrap my mind around it. Why? Why would anyone do this?
Witnesses report the attackers had shouted Allahu Akbar (God is Great), labeling them Islamists, and many on social media have spoken up against Muslims, Islam and refugees.
This reaction was to be expected, but it doesn’t make it any easier, because no God could ever condone this. Not mine, definitely.
Looking over my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I can see that the few Egyptians or Arabs awake right now share my sentiments.
They are shocked and outraged at something so brutal. They question what kind of person would do this. They are furious at the news and recall how tragic this week has been. First Lebanon, now this.
They are also desperately trying to speak out against the Islamophobia they know is sure to have surfaced by tomorrow morning.
Whatever these people believe they are fighting for, it is not Islam. The Islam we know would never allow the killing of innocents and terrorizing of adults and children alike.
They are scared of a backlash at refugees in Europe, and are reminding everyone that this is exactly what these refugees have been wanting to escape so desperately, not caring if they died in the process.
My hearts and prayers go out to France, the French people and anyone who is worried about a loved one in Paris.
Tonight will probably go down as one of the bloodiest, most brutal and most heartless attacks in history, but I hope it doesn’t go down as the day France – or Europe, or the world – punished all Muslims or Arabs for something that breaks their hearts just as much, if not more, because of how it defames their religion.
Tonight’s attacks, like every other terrorist attack, have targeted innocent humans. I hope we remember that our humanity is something we all share and that, though located in France, these attacks have targeted and affected us all.
This piece was first published within hours of the attacks in Paris on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Here is the link.