The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place… and I don´t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward… how much you can take, and keep moving forward. That´s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you worth, go out and get what you worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying: You ain´t what you wanna be because of him or her or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain´t you! – Rocky Balboa
Social media, news articles, even bus discussions… All revolving around the shock of Sunday night. I’m sitting in the group study room at the library, trying to sew together some words regarding Sunday night’s incident but I’m failing. I’m failing to express the utter shock and horror of the situation. I’m struggling to comprehend what it would have felt like to be a victim of such horrific act. I’m trying to keep myself together and believe in a benevolent world but when evil attacks, life seems so bleak. I’m trying to filter out all the background noise and be in the moment but I can’t. I’m not alone in my thoughts, it seems. My friend’s voice in the background is filled with negative views of the world; “The world is far too messed up”. Another friend attempting to convince them otherwise, “it’s better than many years ago”. They’re both right, I must admit. It’s better and worse, all at once.
Communities are like a stack of dominoes, one push and everyone falls. The good news is, we can get back up and build ourselves again. It’ll take time, but we’ll get back up and we will support each other and we will grow stronger and stronger and nothing can stop us.
In recent days, the students of Maynooth University have been supporting each other in every way possible. From people offering free lifts, to people offering to walk you home – Maynoothians have been trying to re-build themselves and grow stronger as a community.
In case you haven’t heard Sunday night’s news, a Maynooth Student was brutally attacked shortly after arriving to Maynooth from a weekend visit to her family. She is currently recovering in hospital. Gardaí are investigating the incident with sightings yesterday of them checking CCTV’s in the town. Maynooth University have been sending out continuous e-mails to students to ask anyone with information to come forward.
Speaking to my fellow classmates, there were echoes of fear and shock. One person told me they’re not surprised. I had to pause for a second. Not surprised? What do you mean, “not surprised”? Ben’s academic years have been spent in Maynooth. Since primary school, Ben travelled to Maynooth for school, secondary school and now college. He also visits his girlfriend who lives in Maynooth on a frequent basis. So, if there’s any classmate who knew the ins and outs of Maynooth, he was one of them!
Ben, unfortunately, was someone who had a personal encounter with “evil”: “My brain started moving a million miles an hour. I thought about a million things all at once; like how to best defend myself, how painful this would be if he actually stabs me what [his girlfriend] would think when she answered her door to find me with my head possibly kicked in leaning against her door, whether I’d lose all my possessions f*** whether I’d be walking home later that night. Yet, the only thing I could think to say was “are you okay sir?”. I froze, my back tensed, my eyes darted around to see if anyone could help me… When I realised I was alone, I clutched my phone tight so I could use it to hit him with if it came to that. When I heard the door open I shoved him with my bag and staggered inside as quick as I could. Afterwords, I had so much adrenaline I reckoned I could have put my fist through a wall and only after did I really grasp what had happened”. Ben has been lucky in that he escaped the situation but to this day he is extra cautious when he’s out and about. “I feel nervous walking to my girlfriends house and I am constantly checking over my shoulder these days”. He revealed to me that he hides something in his jacket pocket as safety measure if he was ever under threat again.
Asking him for enlightenment he would share, having been in such a frightful situation, Ben advised “[To] stop and think before acting… [what] my dad taught me about self-defence was that those s**** aren’t going to fight fair… Why, claw their eyes… break their neck if you f***ing can but don’t start something you don’t know you can finish for definite. If you have to give them your wallet, everything in there is replaceable, your body isn’t”. While personally I would probably cry or try run away, I do agree with Ben about doing as they say. Don’t argue with them, give them your possessions if they ask. Your body is priceless, never value possessions over your own safety.
Speaking to Ross, an almost fourteen stone rugby player who grew up in what he described to be a “scummy school” told me “[I] get very paranoid walking down certain [Maynooth] lanes at night, as if I’m afraid if something were to happen I wouldn’t be able to defend myself. Ross has “witnessed fights randomly starting and racist, sexist, homophobic, and just discriminating verbal and physical assaults”. He describes it as “outrageous… Especially considering we are supposed to be the most diverse, ‘open armed’ and ‘friendly college in Ireland’… This rise in hate, sexual, and physically abusive crimes have made us scared again, scared of the world we used to be able to shrug off when our parents said “God no you can’t go out, who knows what would happen to you. You could be killed”. That’s the f***ing world we’re living in now… These are real people affected, these are real offenders on the loose, these aren’t fictional stories”.
Ross is currently a resident in Maynooth for the academic year and he highlighted the lack of Garda presence in Maynooth, Ben has also backed this up. “We don’t have protection anymore I don’t remember the last time I saw a Garda walking the streets ensuring people were safe, they sit in their barracks and wait”, Ross commented. To my shock, Ben revealed to me that there’s generally three Gardaí on duty, serving all of Leixlip, Celbridge and Maynooth!
Despite the fear instilled, Ross advised that “we can’t be afraid though, we need to stand together, stand as one, to stop this. Light will never abolish the darkness but we can control it… We can’t change what we do, or else they win. We need to continue moving forward, and not let this kind of thing push us back. We’re family here in MU….
We have love in our hearts and bravery in our souls, we want what’s best for each-other and not watch our friends get beaten down in any way. Tragedy doesn’t build character, but how we react and deal with tragedy that does, and I hope Maynooth shows us the character I hope it still has… I feel like the change we need is in the good people of MU and Maynooth, not the Gardaí, or lawyers, or the men behind desks. Us…
We must come together to raise awareness, speak our minds. But, at the same time, our success for change won’t come from talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. We will prevail by being strong, smart, resilient, and relentless in our fight to stop these crimes”.
It’s important to note that Maynooth is generally a lovely place to be. I have personally always felt safe here and my parents often do their weekly shopping in Maynooth. However, it’s evident that no matter where you go or how safe you feel, it’s important to be extra vigilant. Make sure you’re constantly keeping in touch with family and friends of your whereabouts and avoid being out on your own if at all possible. If you ever have any doubts or suspicions always bring it to the attention of the Gardaí, it won’t do you any harm and it could potentially save someone. If you’re able, try to offer someone company to the bus stop, train station, their home etc… so long as you’re not left on your own at the end of it.
Most importantly, as Al Pacino once said “we need to heal as a team, or we will die as individuals”. Maynooth is already a very close-knit community and we must remain united and supportive of each other. We must keep looking out for our friends, our classmates and fellow Maynoothians. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows but unity is a strong bond that should never be broken.
Myself, and the community of Maynooth, wish our fellow Maynoothian Kym a speedy recovery!
Special thanks to Ross and Ben for their time and input!