Star Trek: The Next Generation

Times Square Accident and How We See It

I meant to write about editing my reel together today, and then a car drove straight into pedestrians at Times Square, and it made me think about how we feel about and react to things around us.

Because I heard the news and barely reacted at all.

Before I knew it was a drunk driver, I got a little upset that someone tried to attack MY NEW YORK again. And I was - and still am - sad for the person who died and their friends/family. I hope that the people who were injured heal easily and swiftly. But that's all a little in the background since I don't know any of them. And I'm not sure to what extent that's terrifying, or is it just normal human psychology?

We hear so many stories of people getting hurt and dying every day. We can't possibly grieve them all. We couldn't get on with our own lives if we did. Is that mindset compassion fatigue, or a normal coping mechanism?

The other thing about that which scares me is that later on today, I was hanging out with my brother (he just got home for the summer from his sophomore year of college!) and we were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the episode we watched made me cry.

Real people being injured did next to nothing for me, but a fictional girl dying on a TV show made me lose my shit.

Now, there are some obvious differences. I can see the people crying on Star Trek. Even if they're not real, they're characters that I'm very familiar with, so it feels like I know them. It's personal. And all I've seen about the events in Times Square today are a couple of headlines from the New York Times. I don't think I know anyone who was involved. But isn't it supposed to be part of human empathy that we can feel for people we don't know when tragedies befall them?

I genuinely don't have any answers to this. Is it a problem that is unique to the modern era since, with modern technology, we can hear more than ever about terrible things around the world, and we're simply overwhelmed? But humans have heard about and committed atrocities throughout all of history and moved on with their lives. I don't really know. But both as a human and as an actor who is supposed to feel, observe, and tell the stories of human emotion, it's something I couldn't not think about today.

I hope you and your loved ones are all alright.

Death, Grief, and Community

A friend of mine died this week. And I'm really struggling with what to say about it.

It's not the first time I've experienced the death of a peer/someone my own age. And I didn't know him especially well; we worked together at the New York Film Festival, and I liked him a lot as a person, but it's not like I had known him from childhood. But his passing makes me very sad, and I don't know what to do with this grief.

There are two things I'm primarily thinking about. One is the impostor syndrome, and how I keep feeling like I don't deserve to feel this way about his passing, even though I intellectually know that's absolute bullshit. The other is how beautiful the community that comes together after a senseless death like this can be.

That first point, where I'm concerned about how worthy I am to be concerned, is pretty self-involved, I know. Not only am I entitled to my feelings, but I did know him, I was touched by his presence, and I feel his absence in my life. I know that there are other people who feel it much more strongly, and I'm doing my best to be there for them without overwhelming them with my own desire to help or intruding on their private spaces. But it's a sad thing that happened, and I am allowed to feel sad and share that sadness. And I am allowed to think about how that sadness and his absence affect me.

In the nerdiest possible way, my thoughts on that particular topic keep coming back to this scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation:

I intellectually get all of that. But I almost didn't go to the memorial service yesterday because I was worried that I didn't deserve to be there with people who knew him better and loved him more than I did. Ridiculous, of course. And I did go, and not only am I glad that I did, but I saw that the room was absolutely packed with people who had cared about him, and his family was comforted by how many people care.

There were so many people there. I already knew that he's a wonderful, kind, considerate person, but in the auditorium where the service was being held, not only was every chair filled, but all of the extra chairs that had been put out were also filled, and there were people lining the walkways so standing room was also filled. When people joke in that only-half-joking way about wanting to fake their own death to see how many people come to their funeral, this service was exactly what they want to happen. This community was huge.

I couldn't possibly speak for everyone there, but I know that I took comfort from how many of us were there feeling sad together. It absolutely sucked that we were there, but at least we all felt shitty together.

There isn't any kind of lesson to be learned from this. I don't believe that peoples' deaths and the things that we do after them are there to ~guide me on my path~ or anything. (Even I'm not that self-involved.) But this is my experience surrounding it, and I wanted to get it down in writing.

I want to end this by saying a little bit about him. His name is Noah Witke. He was 25. He was a liaison for the Film Society at Lincoln Center, and I knew him from his work with the theater team volunteers at the New York Film Festival. He was one of the friendliest staff members. Not to say that anyone who is a staff member for NYFF isn't friendly, but he's the kind of guy who, no matter how busy he was, would make time to stop by you as you're working, ask how you're doing, and really mean the question. He would remember people. He graduated from Julliard in drama, which is just ridiculously impressive. (For those of you who don't know, Julliard only accepts 18 people every year.) He was intensely curious about the world. When I was on shift at NYFF at the end of Yom Kippur, he's the staff member who was there as I left to go get food, and when I told him where I was going and why, he got super into the mini discussion we had about the holiday, and Judaism, and what it means for us before I ran off to actually eat. And then later that evening, he asked me what I had gotten, and got legitimately excited by the fact that I, too, was the kind of person who would get a pint of ice cream just because I could. He was caring, full of life and joy, and there are few people who deserved this less than him. People are sharing photos and stories of him here, and I think these stories capture who he was as a person better than a description ever could.

Anyway. I'm not sure what else to say. But I'm going to miss him. And this sucks.