We settled into our balcony seats at the University of Maine Yuletide Concert, looking forward to a couple of hours of holiday music and a chance to touch base with our youngest child. Shortly afterward, the lights dimmed and a recorded announcement thanked everyone for coming and noted the location of emergency exits. Pretty standard. Then, the recording added that in case of an emergency, audience members should stay in their seats and listen for and follow instructions which would be announced over the PA system. Not so standard.
Immediately, my thoughts skittered to San Bernadino, Paris, Roseburg, and to the sites of other recent shootings. I shuffled uneasily in my seat and looked around, noting others doing the same. What kind of world are we living in that we gather to hear music and wonder if this gathering could be a target? The warm glow of expectation dimmed and I felt besmirched with awareness. And throughout the performance I remained aware–of opening and shutting doors, shuffling exits and entrances. Just slightly, peripherally aware.
My daughter’s choir performed in the second half of the show. Stage lights dimmed and the choir members revealed small lights that blinked slowly, off and on, twinkling on the dark stage. After a few moments of expectant hush, they began to sing and the beloved glistening notes of “Silent Night” spilled into the air. As their voices soared to fill the hall, my eyes unexpectedly filled with tears. I was moved by the beauty and energy of these united voices, my daughter’s amongst them, but also by a concurrent sense of loss and sorrow.
The echo of that earlier announcement and the resulting awareness still lingered. How has our world become one in which the shadow of terror has managed to penetrate even this small performing arts center in rural Maine? I looked at my daughter. I looked at all the beautiful young students, with their beautiful young voices weaving together with such power and glory, and I was simultaneously thrilled by their amazing potential, and frightened by the uncertain future that lies before them. Before us. And my tears spilled over.