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L.

I'd never seen L. cry. It was one of those things that as soon as it happened, I instantly longed for the days beforehand, when her infectectious laugh filled the halls. She's like a shell.


I heard it from her before I ever saw the headlines. Or maybe I should say that I saw it; after all, I'd seen that look on myself many times over the last couple years. There is something uniquely and horribly visceral about trauma, and it looks very much the way it feels: like you're lost and wandering in an endless fog you can't get out of no matter how hard you try, and you're just a breath away from bursting into tears or shattering into a million pieces. Other times you just feel exhausted and completely numb. Dark circles appear below your eyes and your face sinks somehow, and suddenly you're older overnight. You feel like you have to be strong, yet you just want to numb yourself and disappear. And the whole time, a single question continually echos in your head:



 "Why?"



That kind of anguish is impossible to convey with words, but unmistakable once you've been through it. And if you have, then you know how much the heart and body physically ache from it all. It's surreal and incomprehensible.


I wanted to hug all the tears out of L. and to tell her it would all be alright, but there's really nothing you can say in those situations. You can't even reassure someone or promise that it will be okay, because it isn't, and it will never be again. Time helps, but it never heals, and there's always a hole or a scar that never stops aching. Sometimes there's nothing you can say or do, and that's okay- it's alright to just be there. Sometimes what people need most in those is just to have someone to sit in the ashes with them, just so they know that they're not alone. So that's what we did: we just sat together and hugged until L.'s sobs were used up and there was nothing left to say.


In a way, I hated what pain came to mind first while we sat there. L.'s trauma wasn't about me and stemmed from a very different source, so I felt odd for how I found myself empathizing with her, but life-shattering pain or loss doesn't have to come from the same event to be relatable. The weight of grief and all the rage and bewilderment that comes with waiting for justice is something I'm quite familiar with. In truth, I don't believe that rape and murder are entirely dissimilar; both destroy lives forever- one is just more literal and final, though survivors do have elevated suicide risks and some do take that route when it's to heavy to cope with. Both crimes are devastating beyond words. And both should be incomprehensible to anyone with a soul or basic moral compass, so the questions echo over and over in our heads- why would someone actively choose to destroy another person by taking away their life, peace, or future? How could you ever want or enjoy hurting another person like that? Does the perpetrator laugh afterwards or get off on it? Do they fantasize about it over and over or enjoy the attention while victims lie broken and their families struggle to pick up the pieces?


Those are the questions that will never be answered, but anyone who would do something like that is the epitome of evil. My faith teaches me that there has to be hope for redemption, even for people like that, but honestly, the more I learn and see happening to people around me...well, I honestly don't know if I can believe it anymore. But that's between them and God; all we can do is love and be there for each other, especially in the midst of grief. Love is the glue that keeps a broken heart from falling apart forever.


I hope there will be justice for L.'s family, and that they get some answers. Somehow I have a strange, hopeful feeling they will. Nothing can undo a death or return what was taken, but I still truly believe that evil only evades justice temporarily, and it will come back to whomever inflicted it. I have never known Karma to decline an invitation- she runs a little late sometimes, but upon arrival, she'll more than make up for it.


"Without justice, there can be no peace."

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

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