This past Saturday night, after we had finally gotten the kids to sleep, and my husband and I were collapsing on the couch for an evening of Netflix, my phone started to light up with the news that there had been an explosion in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.
We’ve lived in the New York City area virtually all our lives. There have been some explosions here and there — usually, it’s a pipe exploding, or a gas leak explosion, rarely anything too sinister. I was happy to see that there were no immediate fatalities, and that most of the injured seemed likely to recover fairly quickly.
But as the news unfolded, it became clear that it was much more than that. A bomb Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey. Another undetonated bomb found in Chelsea a few blocks away from where the first explosion happened. And this morning, I woke up to find out that more bombs were found near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Authorities didn’t say at first whether these bombs were absolutely linked, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to hypothesize that they probably are linked in some way.
As of now, the main suspect in the bombings has been arrested, although it’s unclear what his motives were, and if any other individuals were involved, and possibly still unaccounted for.
And this morning, as he does every morning, my husband woke up at 5, showered, got dressed, gathered up his backpack full of papers, and boarded a train to Manhattan, where he teaches high school English.
My husband works near Times Square, an undisputed target for terrorists.
I don’t want to let fear dominate my life. I don’t want the perpetrators of terror like this to win. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified to let my husband go to work this morning.
It’s a familiar feeling, unfortunately. We were newlyweds during the terror attacks on September 11, and were both working in the city that day. Although we escaped unhurt, those feelings of sheer and utter fear lived in our bones for the weeks and months following the attacks. Saying goodbye each morning was charged with the knowledge that anything awful could happen any day — that each goodbye could be a last goodbye.
It’s a feeling almost every parent of school-aged kids had after the Sandy Hook shooting. When I picked my kindergartener up that the afternoon after the shooting, I wasn’t the only mother who was sobbing, clutching her child tight, and rushing home.
Since that day, I always remember to tell my son I love him before drop-off and give his hand a tight squeeze. And every time I hear sirens go off in our neighborhood on a school day, I immediately worry that something has happened at my son’s school.
What the fuck is wrong with our world?
I know that in this heated political election season, there will be a lot of people pointing fingers when it comes to an event like the New York/New Jersey bombings. But whether the asshole who did this is a homegrown terrorist, connected to an international terrorist organization, or just some crazy, hateful lunatic who wants attention, I think we can all agree that something is very wrong with our world and our country.
This past summer, we saw the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. In fact, 16 of the worst mass shootings in America took place in the last 10 years. America takes one of the top prizes in the world in terms of gun-related shooting deaths. Fucking lovely.
We’ve seen a sharp increase in hate crimes in Europe and all over the world. Even in 2016, when we’ve made great strides in terms of acceptance and equal rights for gay people, the LBGT community is still, by far, the prime target for hate crimes in America. And in the past few months, there has been a very troubling increase in hate crimes against Muslim Americans.
Wherever you stand politically, there is no denying that we are dealing with an unprecedented amount of hate and fear in our country. As a mom who wants nothing more than to protect her children and her family, my primary feeling is an overwhelming sense of helplessness about it all.
I couldn’t sleep last night worrying about my husband going to work this morning. I almost wanted to rush to him at 5:45 as I heard him open the door to leave and tell him to stay home today. But I knew he had a room full of teenagers who were relying on him — not just to teach them Macbeth, but also to reassure them that everything would be OK in their city, and life would go on.
I guess that’s all we have right now — the reassurance that most of us will come out of these sorts of scary moments relatively unscathed, and that it actually makes very little sense living our days in fear.
I want to believe that’s true. I really do. But I also have to live with the feeling that the world is very, very broken lately. It feels like anything could happen at any time, and that no one really is safe.
How are we supposed to stay calm at times like this? How are we supposed to mother our children? How on earth are we supposed to explain this shit to them?
I don’t have the answers, not at all. All I have are hugs, extra kisses, and hand squeezes as my family walks out the door. And right now, that has to be enough.