Chester Bennington was the voice of a generation lost between 9/11 and the Recession — with power ballads of pain and personal growth through adversity, he showed that survival through trauma was possible.
His death hits like one of his high notes, but my family have him to thank for being here today. For that, we will honor his music and not wallow in his death.
When I was 10, I stomped downstairs to the living room where my mother had Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” at full volume roaring from our Sony speakers and her hair swaying back and forth with her hips.
I shouted for her to turn the music down.
She did, but only to tell me that we do not turn the volume down in this house and to always keep the music loud. And turned it back up. My mother is impossible, but she taught me a valuable lesson. She is always showing me how to let loose and enjoy myself.
Back then, we spent a lot of time window shopping at the local mall when the tourists flooded our usually tranquil beaches for some time to talk and daydream. We also would have what my mom called, “just because” days where she would make up a dentist appointment to get us out of school. I was always in summer school back then, I seemed to have some sort of issue with authority.
One of these trips we ended up in the FYE (For Your Entertainment) music store and as always, I was thumbing through the new releases. My taste in music has always been textured, in that my first cassette tape was Jewel’s sophomore album “Spirit,” I’d steal my parent’s Nirvana and Alice in Chains CD’s any chance I got, and my step-sister and I would sit by the radio listening to 93.3 to catch the latest Fat Joe song for our mix tape before scanning over to 91X so I could catch Green Day’s “Redundant” that I had requested.
This day, there was a soldier with wasp wings and a flag on a cover that’s name looked almost like it was graffitied on. I don’t know why, but despite the whopping $12.99 I would need to rationalize to my mother, I went to her with Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” and gave it a shot.
She looked at me sideways like she always does when I come to her with something obviously outside of the typical funny bumper sticker budget we stuck to. She asked me if I really wanted it. I answered yes as quickly as I could. My mom popped her hip and gave it a pause before extending her hand out, “Alright, hand it over. I’ll buy it for you.”
When we got home I went straight upstairs, took my nail to the fold of the cellophane wrap and peeled away the safety stickers. I played that album for an entire year straight. To this very day, I could sing every word at a drop of a hat.
My brother listened through the walls, my mother asked if we could play it in the car.
The words in these songs hit parts of me I didn’t know could be reached, I thought if my mom knew what the words said instead of just hearing the catchiness of the riffs and the thump of the bass that I would get in trouble.
It’s not right to think about killing yourself but Bennington let me know that it was normal. He showed me and others that we are not crazy for thinking the way we did when the world became difficult but that we had someone to share this with. Because if this guy was able to get a producer to say “Sure, you can record that, we’ll promote that,” then there was no way I was the only person with these feelings inside.
“Meteora” came along right when I needed it, the words pulled me through my darkest times by echoing what I couldn’t shout myself. If it wasn’t for “Somewhere I Belong,” I don’t know where I would be. Bennington made dark poetry into music and not just for effect or to be edgy, but for therapy because I could hear the truth in his words and his tone. It was inspiring me to let go. But not let go as in leave, but let go of the pain and let it out on a page instead.
I feel silly sometimes for feeling this strongly about his death, I don’t have any backstage memories or concerts to recall but I can tell you that Chester Bennington sat next to me some nights when I felt completely alone in the world and sang into my ears that I wasn’t, and there were others just as dark and twisted as I was.
My mom has her own darkness she has had to work through, same as my brother who has dealt with bullying because autism is still confusing for some people. Bennington was there for all of us in the moments when we couldn’t or didn’t want to reach out to one another.
Even now, at 27, I still feel that darkness. Just because we’re older doesn’t mean that our lives haven’t stopped being complicated, the truth is that it becomes worse. There’s no lie there. But we can still hit play. We can still turn the volume up, we can let others know that they are not alone.
I will never turn it down. Thank you for shining a light in the dark.
In case you or someone you know needs support, here are some resources:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK
Crisis Text Line, the free, nationwide, 24/7 text message service for people in crisis, is here to support. For support in the United States, text HELLO to 741741 or message at facebook.com/CrisisTextLine.
For support outside the US, find resources at http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html