Here’s what happens when you have an adult child who lives and works in New York City and you hear that there was an explosion. Your brain starts firing off all kinds of signals, the largest of which is silently screaming out, “Where is my child?”
We had the TV on at home Saturday night. My husband was channel surfing and happened to flip to CNN just as the first news broke that there had been a large explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. They were showing a map of where the blast had occurred. It took just seconds for my brain to process that location: it was very close to where our daughter works. Uncomfortably close.
Now, this was Saturday night, and chances were good that our daughter was not at work. But chances were also good that she was out doing something on a Saturday night with friends or roommates, somewhere in New York City. I grabbed my phone immediately and sent her the following text message: “We are hearing about an explosion in Chelsea and just want to make sure you’re okay. Please text and let me know you are alright. Love you.”
Seconds later, my phone rang. “Mom, it’s me,” she said. “I am okay and we were not anywhere near there tonight.” It turns out that she was miles away. New York’s five boroughs cover many miles, so you can be “in the city” and still be very far away from Manhattan. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. But as our conversation continued, I realized that she, too, may have been shaken just a little, because Chelsea is a neighborhood where many people go out at night and she easily could have been in that vicinity. This time she wasn’t. We chatted for a few minutes, and then knowing that she was safe, we hung up with confidence that our daughter was going to be just fine. But what about everyone else’s sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles? We had the luxury of breathing a sigh of relief. Not everyone had that luxury, but fortunately there were no fatalities. It was actually the next day before I realized that the second, unexploded device was found in the very same block where our daughter works.
We have two grown daughters, both living in major east coast US cities. We talked to them about personal safety and have always urged them to be careful where they go, with whom, and when. From afar, we continue to urge them to exercise caution regularly. But how can you exercise caution against senseless acts of violence? There is no warning sign. It’s not the same as someone following you into a dark alley, which would be very scary, but our daughters should NEVER walk into a dark alley since we have drilled that into their heads. An explosion in a dumpster or on the street or sidewalk means that anyone who happens to be walking by can be injured. Any person. Any time. Any place.
We do not want our daughters to live in fear. We do not want anyone to live in fear. We want people to be able to go about their normal lives, conducting normal business, building relationships, helping others, doing their jobs, and simply living.
While it is thrilling to see our adult children pursuing their dreams and taking on great challenges, it is a struggle for us as well. Sure, we understand that just getting out of bed in the morning presents some safety concerns. We absolutely get it. You can be injured anywhere: small city, village, rural area…anywhere. But terrorist acts don’t usually happen in small, rural communities. They most frequently occur in major metropolitan areas where they can do a lot of damage: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
So here’s my message to my daughters today: keep on living your life! When scary stuff happens near you, the best way to fight back is to keep moving forward. Don’t let it disrupt your dreams or your goals. Don’t let it interfere with your work or your friendships. Sure, you should always stay alert for odd occurrences and you should absolutely report anything that looks strange or out of place. But the best revenge is living a good life, and you are both doing that in your respective cities. Please try to stay safe, and continue to humor your mother when she texts and asks if you’re alright. It takes just a moment for you to text or call back, and it comforts us to know that you are safe. We love you both so much.
We sincerely feel for the injured and their families and are relieved that at least one alleged perpetrator of these crimes has been caught. At the same time, and I don’t mean this to sound at all flippant, we encourage everyone to keep on keeping on. Nothing can truly settle the score, but moving forward with the business of life is often humanity’s finest enterprise.