When you hear the word terrorism, what comes to your mind? I know for sure here in the United States many people just know about terrorism in the 90s because of all the attacks in other countries and what the news had to say about it. There were some terrorist attacks in US soil, but let’s say they were not as common as elsewhere.
In 1982 when I was around 8 years old, I remember my family had to go to visit a newborn baby in the hospital. Because I was not allowed to go into the hospital room, I stayed in the waiting room looking at some magazines. I will never forget seeing the cover of a magazine where there was a monster. I kept staring at the picture trying to understand what happened to that person. When my mom came out and I asked, she said: “This is a little girl who was burned because terrorists put her house to the fire.” An 8-year-old really can’t process that. All I knew was that terrorists were bad and I was glad that I was far, far away.
For most of the 80s, it was constantly on the news what terrorists were doing in Peru. Most of the time, these attacks would happen far from the capital, and when it was in the city usually banks and police departments were targeted. I remember many people were killed in other places far away from Lima, and as sad it sounded, I just remember being relieved that it was far away and that I was blessed to live in the capital of Peru.
I was the generation taught not to pick up anything from the streets just in case it was a bomb. When I had to travel internationally, Peruvians were on the radar as Muslims are now. Security measures were extreme at the airport in Lima. I was just happy we were being taking care of. Many of us got over ourselves and knew that times changed and that we had to deal with it.
When I finished high school in 1991, in order to get into a good university, I had to prepare for the exam. I had enrolled in an academy to get ready and stayed there for a year and met great friends. One of them was my friend who was so great at History. Since I pretty much sucked, I often would go to his house to study with him, so we became closer. One day he lent me his notebook, and I remember the first page was his name, phone number and address.
It was a Thursday night (July 16th, 1992), and I remember I was doing some homework on the computer. All of a sudden, I heard a boom from very far away. It was not loud just because it was so far, but our windows shook, and you knew it was big. My first questions were, “What was that? Was that a bomb? Where?” Right away, we turned on the TV and heard Tarata Street in the beautiful district of Miraflores had been attacked. I had no idea where it was, but the news looked scary and it was at the heart of a district with tourist and high to middle class people.
All of a sudden I started thinking, “Where did I hear that name Tarata?” I remember telling my family: “This is weird. I just read something about Tarata. What a coincidence.” After hours, it hit me: I saw that street name in my best friend’s notebook! I ran to get it, and there it was: he lived on Tarata Street. I remember feeling that nasty, anxious, nauseating feeling, but in the back of my mind I was hoping that Tarata Street was huge and that he was not there. But the more I watched the news they kept saying that Tarata St just had like 2 blocks. I called him and only heard the busy signal. I couldn’t wait to be tomorrow to see him.
Because life did not stop because of terrorism, the next day I had to go to the academy. I took the bus, and everybody was talking about it; there was no way to escape the news. When I arrived and went to my classroom, I knew it should be empty because it was very early, but I had to get there. I remember very clearly getting to my class and seeing my best friend sitting on top of the desk with his back toward me. I knew it was him, skinny and tall. I just tapped his back, and when he turned with tears in his eyes, he showed me his hand where he was holding a door knob. That knob that used to be rounded; it was not anymore. It looked like a wrinkle paper. My friend said: “Amiga, this is all that we have left.”
I was so upset, angry, scared, and most of all selfish. Why him? Why the capital? This never happens here. And it never has hurt someone that I care for. The next months became high alert, alerts from bombs all the time. Curfews were set. We decorated our windows with special tape just in case a bomb would go off. As we started to live extremely aware of our surroundings, I also saw that we had to keep going.
They were dark times, and I questioned myself. Why was I so affected this time if this had been going on for more than a decade? Was it because this was near? Was it because these people were of the same socioeconomics as me? Was it because it was getting nearer and I was terrified? But I never wondered how my friends felt. I assumed my friend from the academy was fine just because he was alive; after so many years I found out it was very hard for him, and the paranoia of another bomb happening near his new home was constant. He even wanted to leave Peru. Who can blame him? Actually many people left my country for those same reasons.
Anger and hate is all I remember about how I can relate to terrorists. All I cared about was getting them killed. I didn’t care if they had families, if they were kids, or if in the process of killing them innocents would go too. Our president then was Fujimori; if you ask now about him, you will see people that loved him and hated him. During his years of presidency, there was a lot of corruption, but to be honest, (and I know I will be judge for this), I didn’t care about the corruption. All I cared about was that during his presidency terrorists were defeated (not 100%). He committed numerous human rights violations in order for this to happen.
After all that experience, I asked myself, “Am I a hypocrite?” When Donald Trump started to go crazy about building the wall and putting all these bans to make sure terrorists were kept away from the US, I reacted. I took it personally. I made assumptions. I judged. But how can I judge? I supported the same back in the 90s in my country. “Do what you have to do to make this country safe!” That was my thought back then. So now, did I just change and forget all about my past?
I am not saying I agree with what is going on now here in the US, but before judging I decided to remember how it felt to be afraid, to be upset at the people that cared about the rights of terrorists or the innocents affected. There is no way we can understand each other if we have not been in their shoes. All I know now is that I take my time to make an opinion. I wish I was a better friend for my friend, and I hope the world makes a change: not to jump to quick conclusions but to be more compassionate and understand that all forms of violence come from pain. I am not saying we should just not care, no I am not saying that. I just think it is difficult to understand because we all have different opinions.
Was I my TrueSelf back then? Yes, but that TrueSelf keeps growing and keeps maturing with every experience. I know that I have to choose to live my life based on love and not fear, which can be difficult when chaos (internal or external) is all around us. That’s why I walk hand-in-hand with my clients to help them enjoy life, whatever their circumstances. With our thinking we can shift the world around us, and call me naive if you want, but I have hope that at some point we don’t have to go through terrorism, poverty, anger, and conflict. Let’s learn from our past; I choose to create my beautiful reality; choose with me.