A Musical About 9/11 and Grappling with the Death of Officer Natalie Corona

On January 11th, the night after the death of Officer Natalie Corona, I saw the musical “Come From Away.” It tells the true story of a tiny town in Newfoundland, Canada that completely mobilized to accommodate the landing of 38 planes that were redirected when US airspace was closed after the decimation of the World Trade Center.

“Come From Away” is the story of the way humans react in the face of chaos and tragedy, and the extent to which human kindness will go under such circumstances. It gives intimate portraits of people affected by 9/11: a woman praying for her firefighter son, a pilot who lost a colleague, an Egyptian man suddenly under scrutiny for simply praying.

I wasn’t even one year old when 9/11 occurred, and I had never really thought about how tragic it really was. My whole life, it was always a thing of history; 9/11 is the reason you can’t bring shampoo on the plane, 9/11 was the defining event of the Bush administration. It’s hard to wrap your head around the personal effect of 3,000 casualties and an attack so deafening that the entire US economy hung static for days.

When I first got the text alert that there was an active shooter in Davis, I shrugged. I didn’t react at all. I continued on with my evening, eating dinner, making jokes about “how they say nothing ever happens in Davis.” The minutes kept ticking by, and I remained nonchalant, unbothered by a threat even so close.

I’d become desensitized in the same way I was desensitized to 9/11; my high school’s bathroom tiles had shooting threats scrawled on them regularly. I was of the mentality that although there was an active threat nearby, I wasn’t in direct danger (yet), so there was no use being concerned.

With all of the shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past couple of years, it's easy to feel as though they are irrelevant, far away, fantastical. It’s easy to feel untouchable by any danger greater than a bike crash. Sometimes I forget that I’m even in the same world as these atrocities. My world consists of class and friends and what the dining commons is serving, not where I would duck and cover in the occurrence of a shooting.

But minutes on lockdown turned into hours. When the death of officer Natalie Corona was announced, there was a significant shift in my mentality: someone had died. An innocent person, and a young woman like me at that. This was no longer an empty threat. That could’ve been anyone, it could’ve been myself or my roommate who was having dinner downtown. Would UC Davis be on headlines nationwide the next day? I’m sure that there were students like me at Pepperdine University who shrugged and figured that those distant tragedies could never hurt them before the Thousand Oaks shooting.

Image source: Sacramento Bee

It’s easy to feel like the events of 9/11, San Bernardino, Thousand Oaks, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Orlando, Stoneman Douglas, Virginia Tech, and the countless other tragedies are not in the same world as I am. Be it acts of planned terror or the second-degree whim of someone unfit to have a gun. You can block it out and pretend like it's not in your same world so long as it doesn’t directly affect you. I did this so much so that I didn’t even react to an active shooter in my own tiny town. I didn’t even think twice about planes full of people flying into skyscrapers full of people. It is normalized in American society.

Perhaps the largest tragedy of all is that because these events are so normalized, you cannot react to them. In retrospect, I am disgusted with my own lack of reaction on Thursday night. I am a piece of the American apathy. We live in a society where guns are so overly accessible that such tragedies occur with some regularity and 9/11 is merely a historical event. I am sorry for being apart of that. I am sorry for not reacting.