By Patrick Bahzad
Who would have thought? Who could have imagined something of this magnitude happening in the US, six months only after the terrible Paris attacks? Back then, in November 2015, events in the French capital looked like the distant reflection of a nightmare scenario that the US would most definitely escape, thanks in part to the many differences in the countries’ social fabric, but also because of the vastly superior security and intelligence apparatus the US had managed to string together after the disaster – of a totally different dimension – that was 9/11.
Let’s be honest though: reality is a bitch. You may be in denial but there is no escaping it. And yesterday, reality came home to Orlando: terrorism in its Islamist 2.0 version showed its ugly mug, that of a US born citizen of foreign descent, who murdered 49 compatriots for no other reason than his twisted ideological and religious hatred. Watching major news channels and TV networks felt like a very bizarre experience yesterday. It was almost like being confronted with the much talked about European terror scenarios unfolding on the US homeland.
Disbelief at the scale of the carnage seemed to be the prevailing feeling. When the mayor of Orlando announced the death toll having reached 50, instead of the initial 20, everyone – from the reporters at the Press Conference to the millions of viewers in their homes – realized that this was no ordinary mass casualty shooting, not even for a "domestic terrorism" case. This was something maybe not on the same level as Paris in November, but definitely somewhere up there.
And suddenly, that false sense of safety that had prompted so many people in the US into dismissing the actual threat vanished into thin air. The homeland looked distinctly more vulnerable than many so-called "experts" had stated. True, from a cynical point of view, one more mass shooting, in a country where such incidents are an almost daily occurrence, doesn't make much of a difference. But this one was off the scales in many regards, and the mood in the country surely was an indicator of its unique character. The feeling that this attack was an almost "perfect" replica to the Paris concert hall massacre of November 13th 2015 did not escape the collective mind and public opinion, even though very few observers openly noticed the striking similarities.