Small Blade

“This world is cruel and merciless, but it’s also very beautiful.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

This is the episode where the show ‘clicks’ and you get what it’s going to be. The minute we see the Attack Titan killing, it becomes obvious that it’s both Eren and that this is some kind of twisty fleshy version of a mech show (although not nearly as basic and serialized as most mech shows).

To make the darkness even darker, we open this episode by watching a couple of nameless characters belonging to the supply team get cornered by a titan. One of them loads a gun and shoots themselves as the others looks on in horror. Then we cut to named characters (Connie/Jean) receiving an order to retreat but having no gas to do so, as the supply team refuses to fight back and is surrounded, resigned to their fate. Even Sasha, the comic relief, fails to rally others.

In the interim of it’s reveals, we get some nice development for Mikasa and Jean. It’s unfortunate that this is one of the last episodes where Mikasa gets sole focus and solo scenes. Especially important that this is one of the only episodes where Eren is truly believed to be gone. Who is Mikasa without Eren?

Excellent storytelling can often feel like excellent magic through the shared techniques in misdirection. You’ve got to appreciate the way Isayama builds your expectations only to twist them. We’ve had six episodes of nothing but horrible giants destroying our hopes and killing our allies. When Mikasa is surrounded, he has both titans march at her from each direction. The punch and subsequent kill by Eren’s titan is made that much more effective through the repeated futile imagery we’ve seen thus far. The appearance of his titan is a distinct shift where it’s revealed there is hope for these people, and they stand an actual chance of fighting back.

Fun Notes:
– It took my second or third watch before I noticed Annie’s comments to Reiner in this episode. Isayama masks this hint very well. Amidst the chaos in Trost, Annie asks Reiner what they should do and Reiner says to wait for ‘them’ to gather. On an initial watch, you’d believe they’re talking about a strategy to fight against the titans, but on subsequent watches, we know this pertains to their shared mission as spies. My assumption is that Reiner wanted more titans to gather in Trost before becoming the Armored Titan and destroying Wall Rose (which they decide doesn’t need to happen as Eren’s transformation provides them what they want).

Thematic Beats:
– In the last episode, Mikasa was reminded of how the world is cruel through her remembrance of the cycle of violence in survival — we kill to eat. We all look like enemies to someone. I’m reminded of the great line from Capaldi’s 12th Doctor in the Doctor Who episode The Pilot, “Hardly anything’s evil. Most things are hungry. Hunger looks very much like evil from the wrong end of the cutlery.” Here, at what she believes is her end, she’s reminded of it’s beauty — not just her relationship with Eren, but also the very concept of family and home, which she directly associates with Eren.

Favorite Scene:
– Basic bitch answer, but the punch. It’s just a really fantastic build up and pay off from what we’ve seen thus far.

The World The Girl Saw

“I got rid of dangerous animals. Animals that happened to represent humans.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

We are introduced to Dimo Reeves, who will become more prominent in season 3. He is preventing citizens from leaving by attempting to force his goods and supplies through the small opening. I won’t say too much. But the scene with Dimo Reeves introduces a character who might become more prominent in season 4, dependent on if the anime chooses to include their role.

A leader in Mikasa’s guard asks her how she became such an efficient killer. The rest of the episode is dedicated to her backstory. Honestly wish we got more Mikasa character-focused episodes as I feel her roles here and in the next episode are the strongest for her character. She’s an interesting character for how divisive she can be in the fandom. Some see her as a weak character because her motivation is driven by someone else (double jeopardy since the person happens to be a boy). I’d say that the themes the story explores is trying to expand upon this exact point.

Mikasa’s parents were driven into hiding by the outside forces of this society. Ackerman’s, her father’s side, are actively persecuted. Her mother is Asian, and Mikasa’s kidnappers note that since she is a ‘rare’ race, she’ll fetch a high price from underground brothels. It’s a distinct transition from the fantastical horror that the titans present to the real horror that humanity presents that the series will continue to blend.

The sociopolitical implications are summarized by both Armin and past-Mikasa’s epiphanies. From survival through eating other living creatures, to childhood bullies, to the rich pushing the poor to the front lines, to man-eating titans, they both recognize a certain ouroboros quality to nature, with humanity included in that. The titans, and by extension to themes from larger horror works, zombies, are a sort of perversion on survival since they do not eat or kill to survive but simply because they are compelled to. The ouroboros quality of the death fueling a purpose of other life is non-existent.

Fun Notes:
– Grisha would be known in the area from him curing a plague, but also was likely safe for Ackerman’s and Asians to reveal themselves around (not that he knew of the backstory of Ackerman’s). Grisha would not report on their identities or them being in hiding, even if for reasons unbeknownst to her parents. Grisha would’ve also taken a specific interest in them due to the Owl mentioning Armin and Mikasa from his future memories. It’s why Grisha was immediately adamant on adopting Mikasa, since he knows she’s somehow involved in their future.

– The cartoon-like quality of Mikasa finding the strength to save Eren is later proven to have purpose. The shocks shown from her brain to her body are literal in that her family line was experimented on to ‘activate’ fighting abilities under certain circumstances. We won’t learn this until season 3 though.

Thematic Beats:
– It’s important to note that Eren’s outburst here isn’t normal (and won’t be treated as such). Up until now, we’ve seen Eren experience trauma and have bloodlust for mindless killing creatures, but this sequence occurs before all that. Supposedly, here, he’s level minded and he both murders actual humans, and disregards their lives as animals. Something is not right with Eren.

Favorite Scene:
I like when Mikasa connects the kidnapper choking Eren to instances of survival she’s experienced living in a family of hunter-gatherers. She’s seen prey kill predators. She’s seen her father kill for food. She now sees human nature as no different in their base motives. “A cruel world in which only the victor survives.”

First Battle

“You were the one who told me about it. That’s why I want to go outside.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

A well-known bait and switch that serves as a second hook, and properly establishes the show as one that will twist in unexpected ways (even if this one is an about-face that falsely convinces many that this is a show that will unceremoniously kill off main characters).

The introduction of Pyxis shows his status among the interior royals. It’s another scene that hints at the more widespread corruption. Marquis Bart wants Pyxis to finish his game of chess with him in spite of the crisis in Trost. He makes the claim that Pyxis’ presence won’t sway the tide of battle. It’s Pyxis that later saves Eren’s life and wins their victory in Trost.

Pyxis is a really entertaining character, a straight-man amongst the faction commanders. Erwin is insanely cunning and ruthless. Nile is ignorant and passive. Zachary is a secret lunatic that creates torture devices. Pyxis comes from a much more neutral perspective, yet stands for what he believes in (unlike Nile) and takes action when necessary. Even as a routine heavy drinker, he’s the most practical of the commanders. Also, who can’t love the way everyone screams his name? “PICKSHEESHUH!!!”

In the face of imminent danger, before his group is sent to the front lines, Eren displays a perverse recklessness that, while not unusual for an anime or a fantastical world, will continue to be expanded upon in this story as, what I would best describe as, “not normal.” All he seems to care about is killing and moving up the ranks. Just on the eve of graduation, their inexperience reveals itself as they are all decimated by the enemy. Eren, charging in with absolute rage, immediately loses his limbs to a more tactical, unforgiving foe.

Even as dark as the show gets, I would make the argument that this is one of two particularly depressing episodes this season in terms of it’s styling as a fantastical survival horror (which later changes). Having spent four episodes watching Eren assert his belief in their ability, and sympathizing with his desire for revenge for the death of his mother, we get the build up of a typical YA shonen revenge story. Then we’re forced to watch our would-be hero in denial of his oncoming doom before having his limbs torn off and getting swallowed by a titan, as his best friend Armin watches in horror. It’s a great jolt to the system after three episodes of world building.

All rage, with no experience, and no strategy will get you killed. The inexperienced are sent to the front lines while the veterans are more protected. Like a chess game, mass swaths of pawns are statistically sacrificed to dent the enemy in war.

Fun Notes:
– Although Eren is eaten, this does not go against later established rules of transference of titan power, as Eren is not killed and his spinal fluid is not digested (which is the key point).

– Likewise, a lot of fans like to bring up the Colossal Titan’s disappearance as a ‘plot hole’ or ask for deeper explanation. Sure, the narrative is expecting some suspension of disbelief, as other titan corpses take a longer time to evaporate. However, we know the Colossal can change the degree with which it consumes it’s body to disappear as well as how much heat it produces. I always figured Bert just used it all in one go so he could easily sneak back amongst the Scouts.

– Eren’s initial attack against the Colossal gets a great visual callback when he finally defeats it in the battle to retake Wall Maria. Especially given his later revealed titan powers, it’s made more effective by the fact that Eren beats him as a human.

– Jean comments that he would’ve been joining the Military Police the next day had it not been for the attack. Although there are other reasons, one can suspect that Bert and Reiner decided to attack so they could kill their fellow trainee’s before they were assigned to a faction. It’d certainly make it easier for them, mentally, to have their ‘comrades’ be killed by titans.

– The titans seen in Trost here, killing Eren’s comrades, are members of the Eldian Restorationists that we later see when they’re initially transformed into titans in ‘That Day,’ who were Grisha’s comrades. See the photo below.

The titans seen in Trost here are many of the titans seen in the season 3 episode, 'That Day,' made up of Eldian Restorationists, comrades of Eren's father, Grisha

Thematic Beats:
– Let us be bluntly honest about the reality this episode presents in the greater context. If Eren was normal, if he was not gifted fantastical powers, he would be dead. There is no glory. He would be a boy who lost his mother to an enemy, joined the war out of rage, and was swiftly killed. There are several of his comrades, and supporting characters, who will suffer this fate throughout the series. No amount of rage or nationalism or numbers will help you. You either have the power and smarts to defeat the enemy or you don’t. This episode presents a world in which you face an enemy and there are no magic powers to save you.

Favorite Scene:
– As much as the final scene is iconic and shocking, my vote has to go to the immediate flashback before the last moments. This is the basis of Armin and Eren’s motives from which all other themes spring. There is a wall. They want to go outside. Why? What do walls represent in politics and history? How do their desires differ? Understand this is before the death of his mother, before the death of Armin’s parents and grandfather and Eren already had an intense desire to leave. The difference between them will continue to be more and more significant.

– I want to give major shoutouts to Armin’s Japanese voice actor, Marina Inoue. I find Armin’s scream, her performance, at the end of this episode to be very haunting.

The Night of the Closing Ceremony

“Hey there. It’s been five years.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

So much time has passed in just four episodes. We went from the fall of Wall Maria in 845, to the graduation of the trainee’s in 850. There’s been lots of down time since the inciting incident, and structurally, Isayama could have started the story at the end of this episode with the appearance of the Colossal in Trost, but it would sacrifice pacing and character/world building for the sake of getting to the action quicker.

Just as I said in last episode that it throws a plethora of characters at you who will quickly die (a predictable pattern in AOT), the secret to finding out who will live is the start of this episode, where Shadis gives voiceover introductions to all the characters that become supporting cast.

During the training, Annie and Jean directly acknowledge the hypocrisy of the best soldiers being given the opportunity to become Military Police and flee the danger of the front lines. Looking at the top ten on this rewatch, I was surprised to see Marco made it. Also the show doesn’t directly focus on it, but Marco and Jean are often seen together. Annie, Bertoldt, and Reiner are only surpassed by Mikasa, which makes sense given their previous trainings in the warrior program in Marley.

This episode also introduces us to Erwin (now the Scout commander, usurping Shadis from when we last saw him 5 years ago), Levi, Hange, and Miche. Quick introductions so we know their names for when they join our main cast.

The final scene is borderline a comedy beat. Eren’s inner monologue waxes on how five years has allowed them to recover and prepare since the first terrorist attack, and how their counterattack begins today. Enter Colossal Titan for terrorist attack number two. I would elaborate more on Bertoldt’s perspective and the reasoning behind their stagnated attacks, but…

Fun Notes:
– Depending on the translation you watch, during a training exercise, Reiner hands Eren a play knife and says, “Your turn to play the bad guy.” In other translations it’s, “Your turn to play the bandit.”

– I am not sure whether this will come up in the final season or whether it will be cut. But I want to bring attention to Samuel, who Sasha saves. Daz is another Scout who comes up several times during this Trost arc and then seemingly never mentioned again. All you need to be aware of is their existence. Samuel and Daz are trainee’s of the 104th, and have close relations with the main cast as comrades who trained together.

Thematic Beats:
– Given later power transitions, many compare Armin to Erwin, but this episode actually makes Eren feel closer to Erwin. As we see, Erwin makes rousing speeches, and sacrifices for the greater good of serving his dream to find out the truth. Similarly, Eren makes a speech to discourage the top graduates from joining the Military Police, asserting his dream to kill all the titans. It’s enough to convince Connie, Thomas, and Mina who join the Scouts the next day. Thomas and Mina end up dying the same day in Trost. This will certainly not be the last time nationalist speeches convince foot soldiers to join a cause only to quickly perish in their first encounter.

– Sasha’s background won’t be explored further until S2E02, but I appreciate that it supports her food-stealing tendencies related to anxiety/starvation from her hunter/gatherer family suffering shortages post-Wall Maria falling. “Once we retake the land, we can raise cows and sheep again,” – a hope she has from times lost to war atrocities.

Favorite Scene:
– While on a first watch, the intention of the scene seems straightforward (establish Annie and Eren’s capacity to adapt martial arts) in the greater context, the Reiner/Annie/Eren training exercise scene has the most significance in terms of character. There are lots of subtextual/foreshadowing lines that will continue to have meaning revealed.

A Dim Light Amid Despair

“Are you asking me why people eat potatoes?”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

We get a breather in this episode, taking a break from the inescapable horrors of titans to comic relief amid military exercises. It’s also a convenient device to reveal the supporting cast. Isayama introduces so many characters at once that it becomes difficult to determine who will be sticking around. That’s why episode 5 feels like a gut punch — we lose half the people we were just introduced to. However, if you pay closer attention than I did my first go around, it’s easy to see who will be the main players (hint, they get individual introductions with voiceover in the next episode… characters like Thomas and Mina didn’t get that… and they quickly end up as titan food).

Like military action in response to an attack, there are those who experience it directly and passively. Those who prod Eren and co. for information seem gleeful at thought of hearing about titans, having joined for adventure or glory in the throes of war, ignorant of its horrors. It’s an interesting look at the motivations behind young soldiers.

You get enough of a glimpse of certain dynamics. Sasha and Connie are comic relief. Jean and Eren have a rivalry. Mikasa is deluded in her affection towards Eren, which is relatively unrequited. Ymir seeks out Christa/Historia, knowing her backstory as a royal outcast, although we don’t know that yet.

Along with character building, the episode does a fine job of world building without exposition. Through Jean’s desire to have a cushy life in the Military Police, we know there are multiple factions within the army, and the Military Police are considered top class, but have a safer, privileged existence away from the outer walls, near government officials and royalty.

When Eren and Armin talk to Reiner and Bertoldt, it is Bertoldt who recognizes that they are from Shiganshina, and questions why they came here to fight. During their discussion, Bertoldt states, “I don’t have any will of my own,” when talking about their decision to join — he’s speaking of his experience as a child soldier of Marley, although we won’t get that perspective for a long time now. We get a sense of the personalities they’ve invented to cover up their reality as sleeper agents.

Post-episode 38, we know that Keith brought Eren back to the shed after Grisha bequeathed him his titans (Attack and Founding). Keith was left unaware of Grisha’s exact intentions for his son other than to seek revenge for Carla’s death. Keith sabotages Eren’s belt, but Eren remains upright in training in spite of it. Feeling like a failure for the eleventeenth time, Keith gives into fate and accepts Eren as a trainee. “Grisha, today your son becomes a soldier,” is the only hint you have of this relationship by the end of this episode on a first time watch.

Fun Notes:
– There are lots of visual hints here that are only readable upon a second viewing of the series. When Eren says that the Armored Titan looked like a normal titan to him, the framing is on Reiner’s back.

– When Eren hits his head on the ground while training, it’s wrapped in bandages and steam is coming from it. Upon first viewing, the steam seems like an anime addition to convey the fresh wound, but on the second viewing, we know the steam comes from Eren’s titan ability to quickly heal and regenerate wounds.

Favorite Scene:
– I love Sasha screaming, “Are you God?!’ after Christa/Historia gives her bread. Also just generally everything Sasha in this episode. Her initial interaction with Keith is a blast.

That Day, The Fall of Shiganshina

“Yes, that’s what I’ll be. I will kill every last Titan in existence.”

DISCLAIMER: This rewatch will include spoilers for seasons 1-3 of Attack on Titan. If you have not watched all 3 currently available seasons of Attack on Titan, I discourage you from reading further. Even though I am a manga reader, I will not be talking about spoilers for the upcoming season.

Episode 2 is a refugee story. It’s compact in that it covers quite a large chunk of time in order to move on to ODM training and establishing the larger ensemble cast. The titans have invaded, representing a terrorist attack on civilians severe enough to force them to flee. We see images of people forced to leave behind all their possessions so that they may ferry more people to the inner walls. As ships leave and gates close, people jump to try and save themselves, they try to bribe for their children’s lives, and soldiers abandon their posts.

After they flee, and arrive at a refugee camp within Wall Rose, we see dismal food rations, with some only being given a loaf of bread for the day. Garrison members from Wall Rose are upset at having to give up their precious food and resources to ‘outsiders’ and the refugees fight amongst themselves to try and get more food for their own.

Regarding tone, this episode establishes a hopeless atmosphere that will carry for the majority of this season. Although we saw the death of Eren’s mother in the first episode, we didn’t get a good idea of scale or how this is affecting the whole town. Here, the opening shows us the devastation, religious leaders praying for salvation before their doom, innocents chased into corners before being violently eaten.

The structure of the walls is an inherent clue to the corruption of the upper class and government. Pockets of towns like Shiganshina are on the outer rims of each circle in order for titans to be attracted to those areas, making them less likely to penetrate the inner walls. In essence, if you’re poor, you’re bait. With refugee’s being used in the effort to reclaim Wall Maria, it’s becomes transparent to everyone that their sacrifice was intentional on the part of the government to alleviate the food shortage they’re experiencing.

After the death of Armin’s grandfather, the trio have no remaining ties, so all three decide to enlist in the military. Driven primarily by his hatred, Eren vows to kill all titans, “all enemies,” in existence.

Fun Notes:
– In typical form, we get hints without context. “It’s happening again,” Mikasa says as she grabs her head. What’s happening again? We’ll find out in four episodes — the loss of Carla means Mikasa lost her family for the second time.

– Okay now this is where the timeline gets interesting. We know from flashbacks in season 3 that Grisha went and stole the power of the Founding Titan from the Reiss family. And we know from Eren’s flashback in the final episode, that Grisha only went after finding out about the fall of Wall Maria in an attempt to appeal to the king to stop the titans from killing his family. The one shot we get of Grisha returning is immediately after he’s killed the Reiss family and stolen the Founding Titan. Also Eren’s ‘dream’ is Eren being turned into a titan and eating his father. From here on out, unbeknownst to Eren, he’s a titan shifter. I always thought it’d be funny if he transformed from something minor.

– We’ve seen Armin living with his grandfather, but this is the first time he’s mentioned that his mother and father are dead. He states specifically to Eren that if, “…you do something dumb, you’ll die, like my mom and dad.” Armins’ grandfather then dies in the Wall Maria effort.

– Reiner, Bert, and Annie make appearances amongst the refugees.

Thematic Beats:
– Despite Eren’s insistence on not relying on reluctant charity and his inherent ability to kill all the titans, Mikasa reminds him that it’s only from the collective help of people around them that they’ve managed to survive this long. “Eat, and survive.” It always makes me think of Sasha’s character, being an extreme, comic representation of this theme. Her story with her father in season 2 builds well off this.

Favorite Scene:
– This is a bit of an expository episode that covers a lot of ground. It’s a tie between the Armored Titan’s first appearance and the final scene. The final scene, I think, is the most impactful in terms of it’s importance to the larger story.

My Story with Linkin Park

In light of Chester Bennington’s suicide, I feel I need to write this. To process. To vent. But also to tell anyone reading of my story with this band that I hold so close to my chest. I apologize in advance if this is sloppily written but I’m still processing everything.

For most people, they’ll be remembered as that nu-metal band that made 2 albums that they liked and then sold out and made a bunch of garbage. I say that because I heard it parroted a thousand times. I also know a lot of the tributes that are made for Chester will be in honor of those two albums. I respect that. For me, though, they were an integral part of my life.

I never bought music growing up. Although you could find wee infant Ethan dancing like a maniac to Madonna and Ace of Base (my parents allowed it because it tuckered me out enough to fall asleep).

I heard ‘In The End’ for the first time on the radio on the way home from church confirmation. I was sort of embarrassed at how much I loved it. Never before had I felt that kind of connection to music — not just the lyrics, but the sounds… it felt like butterflies in my stomach.

They were the first band I really got into. And I mean REALLY into.

I hunted down every one of their CDs that was out. At first Hybrid Theory, then Reanimation (which I still think is one of the greatest remix albums of all time), then Meteora.

And it wasn’t just me. They dominated the charts. They were #1 everywhere. Hybrid Theory became Diamond and is still the #1 debut album of the 21st century. Meteora went 6x platinum and every single was #1 on the Modern Rock charts, practically unheard of. I knew they were big when one day I looked out the bus window and I saw a woman in her car putting ‘Meteora’ into her disc player and every CD in her case held Linkin Park albums.

But this is the story of any person who got into Linkin Park. I’ve heard this story over and over again. Just recently, I was talking to my roommate, Will, drunk at the bar, and we reminisced about how intense our love was for those albums growing up.

But that wasn’t it for me. I hunted down DVDs of their behind the scenes. One particular one I loved was Frat Party at the Pancake Festival. It has extensive footage of the band goofing off on tour and the making of their albums. I sort of fell in love with the guys. They were anybodies. They were goofballs. They were dorks. They were me. I watched that DVD with my dad. And I didn’t have to force him. We both genuinely had love for this band.

Minutes to Midnight came out and I have a memory I’ll never forget… my grandfather was staying at our house. Now, as every generation knows, we can never agree on music. This was the case with me and my grandfather. He thought everything I listened to was too loud, too heavy, too angry. One day, I had Minutes to Midnight on in my room. It got to ‘What I’ve Done’ — I had it on pretty soft. Everyone else was asleep. My grandfather knocked on my bedroom door. He leaned in and he smiled at me, “Now this… this is good music. I like this.” He shut the door. We never spoke of it again.

On their tour, I got tickets to go see them with my dad, and my friends Shelby, Tim, and Alex (if none of you wish to be named in this, please let me know and I’ll take your names out of this post). I was a member of the Linkin Park Underground and entered for a chance to get tickets to meet them backstage. I won.

Me and my dad received a notice that we were to meet in the lavatories. We stood out there for awhile and Chiodos went out to play. We laughed. The whole thing seemed kind of bizarre, standing around, waiting to meet your heroes while everyone around you shit and farted. Eventually a man came out to greet us and I got to go meet them.

My dad took this picture against what security told us. That’s how much he knew they meant to me. I got my special edition Minutes to Midnight booklet signed by them. I shook each one of their hands. I didn’t know what to say except, “Thank you so much.” Chester was wearing gloves and giggled and said he was a bit of a germaphobe. More than anything, I remember their smiles — how happy they were. They thanked us for our support and the fact that we were coming out to the shows. These people had had immense success and they never let it get to them. They appreciated all of us.

2-15-2008-01

The show was unlike anything I had ever seen. I’m not just saying that in light of recent events. They were so involved, so high energy. Chester and Mike both came out into the crowd for a number of songs. I don’t mean just giving high fives to the people at the front. They had security pick them up and carry them out the middle of the crowd and they’d perform in the center of the crowd. Below is a video of me near them at the Xcel Energy Center in 2008.

I have another memory of going to the equivalent of our Sadie Hawkins dance with my friends Shelby and Rachel. After the dance, we went to Shelby’s house and,being the exhausted teens we were who had just danced our butts off, we fell asleep, me cuddling Rachel, watching one of their live performances on DVD.

Another memory is of my best friend Aaron going to see them when they did a run of screenings of their concerts at AMCs. After the screening, Aaron and I got into his car and he said to me, “Man, I always forget how good they are.” It was always vindicating to me to hear people say that.

Yet all of this is not why I love Linkin Park so much or why I’m crying so hard at the loss of Chester. Those first 2 albums are not why I remember them with such fondness.

This is a bit painful to share but one of my birthday presents my first year of college was a trip back home to see my family and go to a Linkin Park show with my father and my friend Alex. I remembered how much fun I had in the pit at the last show and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I was barred from entering the pit since we had bought seats.

I was upset. Now, I’m not sure how much I believe in providence, but I now believe I was supposed to enjoy the show standing next to my dad that day.

Oh man, the rush when that opening transitioned into Papercut and they came out on stage! I loved every second of it.

Two days later, before my trip home, my parents announced their separation.

It was a bit of a shell shock for me. I went home not feeling much and not knowing how to feel. Their album A Thousand Suns defines that period of my life for me, and the healing process it took.

“You say the weight of the world
Has kept you from letting go
And you think compassion’s a flaw
And you’ll never let it show
And you’re sure you’ve hurt in a way
That no one will ever know

But someday the weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go”

That summer I had to come home and prepare my old house, the house I grew up in, to be sold. I had to repaint over old hand prints I had made on my bedroom wall when I was a child. One evening, I was driving my mother home from a movie and we were talking about the divorce and ‘The Messenger’ was on. It played while my mother and I held each other and cried.

“When you suffered it all
And your spirit is breaking
You’re growing desperate from the fight
Remember your love
And you always will be
This melody will always bring
You right back home

When life leaves us blind
Love, keeps us kind
When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind”

My mother and I sat in the car and cried to that song holding each other. I can’t think of any better song.

From the same album, my mom later got a tattoo on her wrist that said, ‘Let it Go’ — specifically inspired by their song Iridescent, which she still considers her go to song when battling despair.

“When you were standing in the wake of devastation
When you were waiting on the edge of the unknown
And with the cataclysm raining down, insides crying save me now
You were there impossibly alone.

Do you feel cold and lost in desperation
You build up hope but failure’s all you’ve known
Remember all the sadness and frustration
And let it go, let it go.”

This album meant everything to me. People ridicule me for my affection for them — but this album was there when I was alone, battling depression. I know it’s not the album everyone remembers them for but it will be the one I remember them for. It’ll be the album I want to pick up when I want to remember Chester’s angelic voice. I hoped that one day I’d get to go backstage again and have them sign this record for me. And I could tell Chester what it did for me.

They released so much behind the scenes stuff, that I followed Chesters struggles. I listened to Mike talk about writing Breaking the Habit for Chester as he dealt with heroin addiction. I listened to Chester talk about dealing with child abuse. But most importantly, I listened and watched them rise above it and give back — using their pain to help others deal.

Nothing could beat this bands passion for wanting to have listeners connect to their music and achieve some sort of a catharsis. No matter what you think of their later records, their goal was always genuine and sincere. Chester talked about battling mental illness even in this last record… so much of their last record is about struggling with mental illness, even processing death.

I’m not trying to get anyone to change their minds on the band. I was often ridiculed for liking them as much as I do. It became a point of disbelief for a lot of people, “You still like that band?” I hope, through writing this, some people might see why they meant so much to me. They weren’t just there for me through my teen angst, they were there for me through my depression, and still are.

I loved this band. I LOVED this band. They felt like family to me. I got so excited when I heard Brad’s voice chime in on ‘Until it Breaks’ — I loved their evolution of wanting to grow and just try different sounds and stretch themselves creatively.

They introduced me to Depeche Mode. DEPECHE MODE (if you know me, you know how big of a deal that is). The first Depeche Mode song I ever heard was Mike’s remix of Enjoy the Silence. I went out the next day and bought Violator. They opened me to hip hop. My entire music taste is in debt to them.

At this point, this post is turning into word vomit, and I’m not sure of what else to say. My good friend Roston called me to tell me the news. He said he’d rather I hear it from somebody than from the internet. I said, “You’re joking.” I looked up “Linkin Park” and nothing came up. I got back on the phone. “No, it didn’t happen. There’s no news.” I could hear the hesitation in his voice. “It was reported.” I looked up Chester Bennington’s name.

I didn’t know what I expected but it felt like the word shrunk away from me. Like someone turned off a light. Exacerbated by the circumstances. All I can do is cry at the moment.

This man was and is one of my heroes.

Mike, Brad, Phoenix, Rob, Joe — my heart is with you guys. I wish I could be the arm on all of your shoulders that you’ve been for me through the years.

Chester — I wish you were here, man. You didn’t know me but you felt like family to me. I wish you could know how loved you were and how much you helped my life.

“Waiting for the end to come
Wishing I had strength to stand
This is not what I had planned
It’s out of my control
Flying at the speed of light
Thoughts we’re spinning in my head
So many things were left unsaid
It’s hard to let you go”

“When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest”

Please, if you are every depressed, suicidal, or just need someone to talk to, do not hesitate to reach out. 1-800-273-8255 — National Suicide Prevention Line. Or if you don’t feel comfortable calling a stranger, and you have my number, call me. No matter how distant our connection. Your life is so precious.

RIP Chester Bennington
I miss you already man
The greatest gift you’ve given the world is helping all your family, friends, and fans cope with the demons you yourself battled