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Jeff Miers: In wake of tragedy, don't let terror topple the temple of live music

If your heart isn’t broken, you don’t have one.

When terror breaks into the temple of music, the affront to humanity is magnified by the setting, one where people were gathered to celebrate life with the help of music. That was the case when gunmen opened fire on Nov. 13, 2015, during an Eagles of Death Metal show, killing 90 people at the Bataclan in Paris.

What happened in Manchester on Monday evening – a suicide bomber killed 22 people and injured more than 50 at an Ariana Grande concert– ups the ante to the unconscionable. These were mainly children who had come to see their dance-pop idol, to celebrate life, friendship and youth. One of the first confirmed fatalities is an 8-year-old girl. This was an attack on the  innocent.

No platitudes will be of any service here. Parents will be burying children. Families will be torn apart. Lives of survivors will be irreparably damaged.

We're left to find meaning, somehow.

A Manchester United scarf, in the shape of a heart, lies next to flowers and other items that people left during a candlelight vigil at Albert Square in Manchester, England to honor the victims of Monday's terror attack. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Experiencing live music is a sacred, communal rite in my family, and I know that it is the same for many of you. I've taken my son to concerts for his entire life, and raised him in an environment where music is an exalted entity, and its performance an environment where respect for your fellow men and women must absolutely be a given.

We come to music to celebrate what it means to be alive. And we come to it to share that exalted feeling with others.

The tragedy in Manchester strikes at the heart of that exaltation. It is an attack on our sacred space. And it's natural during this time to wonder if it's worth it, to keep on seeking community with large groups of people in public places. My initial inclination upon hearing the news was to grab my family and hide.

But we have to fight such feelings. Living a life where fear is the dominant force cannot be accepted as an option.

My friend, music journalist Anil Prasad, offered words that I found affirming on Tuesday morning, as I, like so many of you, prepare to launch headlong into our own busy summer concert season.

"Manchester could have been any of us," Prasad said. "It is an utterly outrageous, dishonorable and barbaric ongoing situation. What terrorists want is to stop us from living our lives in full and to second-guess our every move, in fear.

"Speaking for myself, they will not be successful. I am certainly not going to change my gig-going behavior. Keep supporting the arts in whatever way moves you. It is what defines our culture and is one of the paramount elements that gives life value. Don't let anyone take that away from you."

We look to Manchester with compassion and empathy for the immense suffering in the wake of Monday's attack. We should also look out into our own front yard, and acknowledge a country that is fractured, one where fear, anger and resentment are doing their unholy work more often than any of us should be comfortable with.

As we enter another concert season in Western New York, let's respect each other. Let's look out for each other. Let's pay attention to what's going on around us. Let's leave our anger and resentment at the door. Let's acknowledge that we might have differing views, possibly even diametrically opposing ones, and accept this reality.

And above all, let's be kind to each other. Music should speak to what is best in us. Let it do its work on you. Fight hatred and intolerance in your own small way, by denying them entry into the sacred space.

This won’t bring back the innocent lives lost in Manchester. But any step toward stripping hatred and intolerance of their power is one that's worth taking.

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