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  • Natassia Paloma

Coping with Tragedy

It was my son's 2nd birthday. We were staying at a historic, beautiful hotel in the Santa Fe Plaza area. We woke up to balloons and a cake. I hugged my little one, gave him a kiss, and chased him around the hotel room for a bit. We then moved our game of chase outside. The slight morning breeze was ideal for a day of sightseeing. Then I get a notification from police: Active shooter. ‘It's probably nothing,’ I told myself. We continued our day and headed to the children's museum. My beautiful son, grinning from ear to ear, happy as can be, building skyscrapers with blocks and blowing bubbles alongside other toddlers. As everything started to unfold, my son’s laughter faded into the background. My eyes became glued to my phone, my mind struggling to understand what I was reading. This can't be real. Within a few hours, we were back on the road, heading back to El Paso. I had to get to work. I had to see my family. My son's untouched cake in the backseat, his birthday balloons pressed up against the car windows. Rain fell. My heart sank. My stomach in knots. The car in complete silence. The drops of rain entranced me as I tried to make sense of it all. I went into work the next day at 4 a.m. and continued to work for the next few days. I relived that moment over and over through our newscasts, and saw the faces of those who were lost. Many reminding me of my own family members. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep. I felt awful. I felt weak. Where this tragedy happened was the place I go to with my grandma. She continues to live a few blocks away. I remember walking there with her as a little girl, wearing white sandals, carrying bags of groceries up the steep incline behind the store to get home. ‘Ya Mero?’ I would ask her over and over, that incline seemed such a long distance as a little girl. I was taking this so personal. I got physically, emotionally and mentally sick. After confiding in a good soul, I called a mental health line. The woman on the phone answered and I poured my heart out to her. This was her advice: Take a day. Do things that make you happy. Get away from it all...for just one day. I knew the first step in truly taking a day was deactivating all my social media. So I did that. I wasn't feeling very well, physically, but I made myself go outside. The warmth of the sun had never felt so good. I still had to take care of my son, of course. I put on some Vivaldi and just watched him paint. I wanted to soak up the moment with my son. I watched his little fingertips grab hold of the paintbrush, he would dab his brush in the blue color, then yellow. Carefully, he moved his brush over to paper, and began making wide swirls. It made me smile, just to watch him. Just to live in that moment. I didn't look at my phone, I didn't log on to any social media for the entire day, and it was liberating. The anxiety, the fear of what I would see next on Twitter or Facebook was gone. I just sat there and watched my 2-year-old and it was the best feeling ever. I truly disconnected and enjoyed the moment. After all, we don't know how many more moments like these we'll have.

❤ Prayers for all those affected.

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