Jul
20
2.26pm

OPEN LETTER // To Chester Bennington


Dear Chester,

I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year since you passed. I wrote something last year when I was still in shock about how, even without ever meeting you, you’d had such a huge impact on my life.

I didn’t know how to write an anniversary piece, so I thought a letter would be the best way to do it. Even if you never read it, I still like to think that you’d appreciate it. If anything, it’ll help me try and come to terms with you not being here anymore.

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When the band announced a concert in your honour, I knew I had to attend. I told myself that if I got a ticket, I’d figure out (literally) everything else later. Staying awake until 3AM Melbourne time to make the 9AM LA release, I furiously refreshed for 20 minutes in vain. I wanted nothing more than to attend; I even contemplated buying from scalpers for nearly $1000 on the event. Suddenly, a ticket appeared and I didn’t even look at where it was. It could’ve been the worst seat in the entire venue for all I knew. I checked out and realised I was going to LA. Probably best to sort out accommodation and flights then.

Arriving in Hollywood, I started talking to another girl who looked out of place. Coincidentally she’d flown in from the Canary Islands for the concert. As we entered the venue a few days later, the line spilled out onto the street. Moving in closer, we realised it wasn’t the line to get into the arena; it was a line to sign a giant memorial wall that had already filled with tributes, artwork and other trinkets that people left in memoriam. It was absolutely covered with love and sadness in equal measure. As we walked up the pathway, pictures of Chester adorned the walls from their latest release One More Light all the way back to before Hybrid Theory.

Heading to my single seat alone, I had no idea what to expect from the experience. As I found it with a perfectly centred view, there were wristbands with light up ‘LP’ baubles attached placed on every seat. The show began and the uproar as the band appeared on stage was monumental. Opening with A Thousand Suns material, everything was going fine. No sadness, just elation that we were able to witness Linkin Park back on stage with Mike Shinoda’s cheeky grin. The opening strains to Roads Untravelled began, a song I’d had lyrics tattooed from only months prior, and it felt right to be able to sing along again.

Next, the lights dimmed, the usual cheers and “we love you!” rang out. Then a spotlight illuminated a mic stand with flowers front and centre. The opening strains of Numb rang out and suddenly it became clear we were in charge of this one. No special guest, no Mike to lead us. And at that exact moment, everything hit and I began bawling. Not just tears running down my face; this was absolute sobbing and heaving to the point I could hardly even sing along. The girl next to me, who was holding herself a lot better than I was, asked if I was alright. For the rest of the concert we embraced and sang together. This happened again and again throughout. One of us would break down, and the other would laugh and console the other. As videos played of Chester at the Bowl only a year prior, leading us for the final time, we screamed as loud as we could. Two strangers who had never met from opposite ends of the world brought together by this beautiful event.

Details aren’t needed, but the trip was one of the highlights of my young life. In the months following, a lot happened. Some things I really wanted to work out didn’t, and I had the real potential to fall deep into a hole. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, including my own, and that somehow made it worse. But I met a group of people who fully supported me, and made sure I was alright every single day. I often think about how lucky I was to have such a huge support network from old and new friends alike, but I also remember feeling worthless or unworthy of it. Even now I still sometimes do. I’ve never been at such a low point as you, and could never compare our situations. But if that’s how you felt for the majority of your life, then I understand why you made your decision. I don’t ever believe I would hit that point, but if you can, then it goes to show how important it is that we need to support each other. Even now I tear up thinking about how you didn’t think anything could get better, because it does.

Seeing your best friend Mike wade his way through grief has been one of the most helpful coping methods. Not being afraid to show his anger, his hurt and most of all the absolute devastation in the wake of your passing is comforting in a way. Even now, the tribute livestream is up on YouTube and I still can’t watch it; I don’t know how Mike managed to orchestrate such an amazing event and keep it together. Although based on the lyrics from his just released Post Traumatic EP: “My body aches head’s spinning this is all wrong/I almost lost it in middle of a couple songs”, it was a miracle he kept his composure. The most I’ve been able to watch is my favourite song In The End, and even that almost turned me into a wreck. I’ve attended hundreds of concerts in my life, and I can honestly say it was (and is likely to be) the most special. I can hardly even listen to a song from the discography without tears building.

Sometimes I see old videos on Facebook from the early 2000s and I’m amazed all over again just how phenomenal your voice is. I don’t feel shame about it, or anger that I can’t listen to the band that made me who I am today. It just goes to show that you were something magical, and even one year on I can’t believe you’re gone. I don’t think I ever will.

I’ll love and miss you forever,

Jonty





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