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  • I thought I knew what to expect.

    I'm a photographer; we prepare for anything, right? Yet when you're in one of the safest countries in the world and you hear about a bombing, a sliver of confusion creeps in.

    Camera in hand, I jumped on the subway. When I ascended from the tunnel, a throng of people met my eyes. I felt so out of place - not due to the event, but I could tell I was not in my own country anymore. There would be panic, there would be noise...countless police officers to boot. And yet I encountered what felt more like a stunned feeling of surprise -- what had actually happened? I wound through the sidestreets, creeping ever closer to the limiting lines of police tape. Even then, it felt like I had just missed the action -- a few ambulances, handfuls here and there of law enforcement officers, but nothing close enough for me to see. My shoes crunching on broken glass, I lingered some and wandered the wider perimeter, it slowly dawning on me that the force of this bomb was actually relatively substantial.

    It wasn't until I returned to my dorm room and evening descended upon us that the gloom and shock of the truth did as well: a gunman had invaded a summer youth camp and shot over 50 teenagers, the majority of them well under my age of 24. The weekend saw me leaving the city for a short trip, but I inevitably found myself lingering at the televisions I encountered. My language skills were lacking, but the shock and sadness in peoples' eyes and on their faces needed no translation. The day after I returned to the city, I joined some hundreds of thousands in gathering to remember the 70+ lives lost a few days before: the bomber and gunman were the one and same, but the city would not be the same. I photographed as much as I could, documenting the beauty of solidarity and unity -- but the broken glass, the masses of flowers, notes of memory and compassion continued to pop up in my mind.

    Upon my returning to my country, my hometown, I found my status indelibly marked: "You were there? Oh my gosh!" My identity began to be tagged with the subtitle -- "she was there for the bombing."

    It slowly began to dawn on me in many ways that the event had indeed left its mark on me, in many ways. I was a photographer, with a passion for peace and conflict studies on the side. We prepare for anything, right?

    It was then I realized that I had the luxury of preparation.
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