It was one of those “do you remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened?” moments. I was out having dinner with family when I found out that Chester Bennington was dead. Just like that, it felt like my heart had dropped into my stomach. I excused myself, went outside, and just cried—not only was I mourning the loss of one of my favourite musicians, but also those early teenage years spent listening to his music obsessively, relating to every single lyric about loneliness and depression.
The next few hours were spent carefully navigating social media to avoid seeing comments from ignorant people, yet some still managed to filter through. From random people on Facebook to well-known musicians, insensitive opinions were rife. There was the usual drivel—along the lines of “How could he be so selfish?” and “How could he do that to his six children?” There were also predictable jokes referencing several Linkin Park lyrics: “I guess he took one step over the edge” (truly the pinnacle of their comedic career!). People repeatedly asked how a man who had so much to live for could choose to end it all. That's the thing about ignorance: it just doesn't occur to these people that if someone who seemingly has everything in the world still commits suicide, then maybe it's an indicator that what they simply couldn't overcome was their mental health issues. That maybe even having the nicest house, perfect relationship, and successful career isn't always enough to beat your demons.
My Linkin Park story is echoed by most people of my age—evident by the almost-identical statuses that went up on Facebook following the news of Chester's death—about listening to Hybrid Theory. I was around 11 or 12 years old and new to heavy music and out of all the music I listened to in the 2000s, Hybrid Theory and Meteora made up a substantial part. The music itself sounded good, but for me and countless others, there was more to it than that. I happened to discover Linkin Park at a time when I struggled with severe depression, yet had no friends or resources that could help. Linkin Park's music became my crutch. Those troubled lyrics, so easily dismissed as being too angsty, mirrored what was going on in my own head which I simply could not formulate into cohesive thoughts. It seemed as though I suffered in silence for so long and all of a sudden, here were these songs that so perfectly and concisely illustrated how I felt about anything and everything. It gave me, and so many others, this feeling of comfort—that there were others out there who felt, but more importantly, understood what I was going through.
Naysayers will say anything to devalue that experience for us. They'll say it's all mass-produced music and therefore not genuine, and that it's impossible to find a connection to a band's music when there are so many songwriters churning out generic lyrics. Maybe these people are lucky enough to have never experienced the kind of pain that causes you to find solace in music. While these songs were never light-hearted to begin with, Chester's suicide has added a brand-new level of sorrow and morbidity. I felt the heartbreak from a decade ago all over again as I re-downloaded those same songs the other night and listened. When I listened to 'Somewhere I Belong', I was suddenly 13 again—in my room with my MP3 player, with every fibre of my being screaming along with Chester's voice, begging to be healed too. I don't think I've listened to anything since that has had such a profound impact on my life.
I recently had the chance to see Linkin Park live, and I decided against it. I took them for granted. I figured they'd be touring again in a year or two and I'd go see them then. Right now I'd give anything to reverse that decision, to go watch one of my favourite bands in the whole world performing the songs I cherish the most. Chester Bennington took his own life but the music he created saved mine and thousands of others, and for that I will always be grateful.
Zahrah Haider Freelance writer and journalism graduate currently living in the UK