Music is supposed to make us feel good. It's supposed to help us connect and express ourselves. It is not a stretch, I don't think, to say music makes us feel safe.
Safe in the knowledge we are not alone. Safe to express how we really feel. On the weekend, after school, in the lunch hour, on the bus.
My formative years were filled with music. It was the '90s, so it was grunge, indy pop, and a good dose of RnB. My first tape was Janet Jackson's Janet. At night I would turn off the lights, pull the covers over my head and turn the radio as low as it would go, straining to hear the final few songs of the Top 40 so my mother wouldn't hear and figure out I was still awake.
Music shaped me. It shaped my friends. We'd gather in bedrooms and talk about the songs we loved, the beats we couldn't help but dance to, the tears we shed over songs that made us feel heard.
My very first "real" concert was a music festival I snuck off to without telling my parents. I bought the ticket with my earnings from my weekend McDonald's job.
I was 15 years old and completely mesmerized. I couldn't imagine anything better than standing in the sweaty, heaving masses and listening to my favorite bands.
Music and the community it builds, felt like a safe space for teenage-me. It felt like a place where I could explore my own tastes and identity, find like-minded people, and learn new things about this world.
It felt incredibly freeing, and for a lot of people, developing those tastes are your first real divergence from your parents and the identity you have been assigned.
The music you love, the way that you love it, is often your way to mark out your territory and say, for the first time, "This is me."
It's powerful, personal stuff.
How do we begin to measure what this terrorist attack means to the children and adults that experienced it, or to the citizens of Manchester, and the United Kingdom at large, who felt the shockwaves of its brutality in their day to day lives?
Terror attacks are about spreading fear, as much as they are about murder.
Teenage girls gathering together to listen to Ariana Grande while they decide what to wear and do their hair.
Teenage girls probably sneaking a couple of drinks in, if they can, sipping and giggling and joking about their crushes. Complaining about their mothers.
Teenage girls talking about their favorite songs. The one they hope she plays first, or maybe last.
Teenage girls forgetting about the test they have to take tomorrow, the boy or girl who most recently broke their heart, the fight they had with their little brother.
Teenage girls connecting with their mom for a minute, as she drives them to the concert. She tells them a story about her first concert. Her favorite artist, 'when I was a girl.'
Teenage girls rolling their eyes, stepping inside, forgetting the world.
Too many won't ever come home again.
22 people dead, 59 injured. At least two teenage girls still missing. That's the latest. The most recent victim named is just eight years old. Not even a tween.
So how do we make music safe again?
After this. After a man in a suicide vest walked into that place and blew it up. Music, for so many, especially teens, the refuge from the real world, so suddenly pulled into the horror of that world, and the safety we imagine in our day-to-day lives, forever punctured. Parents all over the world rethinking their consent to that concert next week, tomorrow, whenever.
The answer is always the same wherever and whenever these horrific acts occur. It is to mourn, of course, but also to live.
To grieve. To love. To find a way to heal.
A community together, united as one voice.
Music may have been the reason these people were all in one place. It may have been why these children and parents, and everyone else, was in one place. An "easy'"target for an evil plan.
But music will play another role as well, because it always does. Music will connect, it will soothe, it will help to heal. It will embody the spirit these types of attacks try so hard to extinguish. Teenage girls, listening to the music they love, remembering the friends they lost, growing up and trying to figure out who they are. Who we all are.
What this world is, and what it can be.