I Believe in Six Words
Everybody says that there is no one moment that transforms your life forever. Change, they say, must come over time. I believed this for much of my life-- until I did have a moment, one moment, that would alter my world permanently. What I learned from that moment has become a central adage in my life: “Tell your friends you love them.” These six words form a phrase that is constantly in the back of my mind-- six simple words that sum up my core values and turn them into one idea. I believe in these six words more than anything else. I believe in telling your friends you love them.
On September 1, 2021— a C day, at 12:28 pm, my phone buzzed with the familiar sound of a Snapchat notification. Out of habit, I immediately hit the small red box next to my friend’s name, but the image that appeared on my screen wasn’t his smile, or what he was having for lunch. It was a dark room, and four words: “Anna, there’s a shooter.”
Over 300 miles away, it took me about half a second to put the pieces together. A shooter. At his school. A school shooting at my friend’s school. The terror that rushed through me at that moment is a feeling that can hardly be put into words. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anybody. It’s the feeling when your heart climbs into your throat and all of the sudden, the world goes quiet. At that moment, paralyzed by fear, there was one thing I could think of to say, “I love you.”
As the day wore on, worry for my friend preoccupied my mind. Around 1:30, his texts stopped, and all the information I had came from CNN headlines and The New York Times— but even they didn’t know what was going on. All I could think was that I would never hear my best friend’s voice or see his smile, ever again. Out of options and utterly helpless, I texted him again and again, “I love you.” Finally, around 6:00 I got a call saying that my friend was okay, and slowly my world started to reform. Very slowly, that is.
In the days and weeks following, that fear followed me as if it were my shadow. Even the little things, like C days and harmless jokes, sent me back to that paralyzed state. I relived that day, that moment, 1000 times over in my mind. Although that fear never really went away, there was one simple affirmation that helped me navigate that time: “Tell your friends you love them.”
In the almost seven months since the moment that changed my world forever, I have learned that what I want my friends to know, above all else, is that I love them. The stark terror of that day eventually gave way to recognition that telling my friends “I love you” is the most important thing I can and will ever do. I believe in the six words that have helped me navigate my best days and my worst. The six words that changed my life forever. I believe in telling your friends you love them.