On April 21, 2019, around midnight, I was greeted by family and friends with the phrase “Happy Birthday.” Minutes later, I was then greeted with a tragedy striking in the country my parents had grown up in. I was told bombs had gone off in Sri Lanka.
I was shocked, scared, hurt, and sad. Thankfully, my family had all survived the attacks but over 250 others did not share the same luck. The day I celebrated my nineteenth birthday became the day that many others in a country I call home took their last breath.
On Easter Sunday, about a month ago, eight bombers attacked hotels and churches around Sri Lanka. One bomb struck in a church in Negombo, the town where my dad’s family lives. A few others were set off at The Kingsbury and the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. My family and I had often visited both of those places to eat breakfast when we went to Sri Lanka each year.
We would grab a spot at the Cinnamon Grand breakfast place and indulge in the buffet of delicious breakfast foods ranging from string hoppers to croissants. I would ask the friendly man serving hoppers for a single plain hopper and then my dad would go back and ask for many more. We would then take a seat and wait to be greeted by one of the waiters, who always smiled and knew that my dad wanted a cup of tea. I shiver thinking about the friendly faces of those who would bring tea and hoppers to our table each morning because now I will never see them again. The bombs hit close to home.
If my family and I had been in Sri Lanka at the time, it is possible that we could have been some of those 250 people. Instead, we were blessed to be thousands of miles away, but many others were not. One particularly disheartening story was about an 11-year-old boy from the U.S. who was visiting Sri Lanka with his mom. He had plans to enter the 7th grade, but his life was sadly taken during the bombings. So many sons, mothers, uncles, and other innocent people were lost in these bombings.
After reading news articles about the attacks and stories of the victims who died, I was not enraged as I imagined I would be. Instead, I was deeply sad. I was saddened hearing the screaming voices from a church on Easter Sunday and seeing the smiling faces of people who will never smile again. When I read that a local terrorist group known as National Thowheed Jamath and ISIS both claimed responsibility for the attacks, I still did not feel anger. However, many of those in Sri Lanka were angry and began to blame Muslims for the attacks, retaliating against them. It was even more disheartening to discover this.
Violence against innocents cannot be solved by attacking more innocent people. This is the time when we need to remember that no religion teaches violence and, in order to combat cruel acts against humanity, we need to stay united.
I was heartbroken when I received news of the attacks and, though none of my immediate family members were killed, I lost many of my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters. The pain and loss caused by the bombings have not left my head in the past few weeks. Unlike many of my friends here at Boston College, I do not have the privilege of walking away and forgetting this time.
It is important to embrace discomfort, to learn more about the victims of the attacks in Sri Lanka (and those of other forms of violence around the world), and to not let violent attacks become normalized. The more we sit back and let acts like these pass us by, the more we become desensitized to violence and allow it to become a part of life. Violence is not and never should be acceptable.