For the second time in a matter of weeks, my phone blew up with text messages from concerned friends.
“MK, have you checked the news? Have you called the preschool? Is temple being evacuated?”
My stomach sank as fingers fumbled across my keyboard.
Google Search: Bomb threats, Jewish Community Centers.
Sure enough, eight results within the hour.
Lord. Not again.
Bomb threats were pouring in, like they did less than a month ago. Across the country, Jewish Community Centers were evacuating. Elderly women climbing out of swimming pools, wrapping up in those small complimentary towels that gyms often provide. Worshipers hurrying out of their holy moments with God. And tiny little children in single-file lines, exiting their preschools, chattering excitedly without any knowledge of the threat which loomed.
My first instinct is panic — always panic. I get shaky. I feel sick.
Should I go pick up my son? Should I call the school? Maybe I should text my best friend and see what she’s going to do. Her daughter is in Nugget’s class. She is always so level-headed. I should call her.
My next emotion is doubt.
I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Not yet. It’s not our school being evacuated. It’s not our temple receiving the call. The closest bomb threat is an hour away.
Don’t be dramatic, MK, I think to myself. But I know that fear will win out, so I pick up the phone and call Jessi, the school’s director.
She answers the phone like a bird, and I instantly regret calling.
“Hey, Jess…it’s Mary Katherine. I’m sorry to call, it’s just…you know. There are bomb threats in our area, again. I just wanted to know, well…what can I expect if…”
“Oh, honey, don’t apologize! You want to know that we have a plan in place.”
I listened as this woman, first a preschool director and later my friend, listed the many intense security protocols already in place for “such an event.”
Such an event.
I digest the phrase. I know she’s trying to water down the fear that “bomb threat” or “terrorist attack” instills. By removing the words, she hopes to remove the trigger. And yet, as she continues, carefully explaining each plan, my mind wanders.
I am remembering the safe, warm feeling I had the first time I walked the halls of the temple preschool. Was it two years ago? It seems like yesterday. I was a scared, first-time mom hesitating to enroll my son in preschool because how could he possibly last four hours without me?
My doubts and fears melted away when I met Jessi. She walked me through those narrow halls, dotted with bright bulletin boards and tiny backpacks on hooks. She knew every child, and every child’s family. The kids ran out of their classrooms to hug her legs as she passed by. There was laughter as tiny bodies huddled around interactive stations. Crying children were patted and rocked with love.
This felt like home. It didn’t matter that I was a Christian in a Jewish temple. These were my people. So I wrote a check for tuition and went home with a burden lifted.
My son was in good hands.
“Mary Katherine? Honey, are you still there?”
“Crap, I’m sorry, Jess. I am here. You know what? I appreciate this. Thanks. I feel…better.”
I stumbled over that last word. Jessi wasn’t convinced. Before I had the chance to get off the phone and escape the shame I felt for calling, she lowered her voice.
“Mary Katherine, you know that I’d lay down my life before any harm came to these babies, right? No way anybody gets through me.”
That did it. My voice cracked. I thanked her and hung up the phone.
And here I am, sobbing.
Because this is the world we live in now and because of how damn unfair it is.
Because I can’t wrap my mind around the kind of hate that inspires people to terrorize others. To terrorize children. Babies.
Because this woman, from a different background and faith, would readily step in to protect my child — no matter what it cost her. I know she would.
But I’m also crying over my sudden, uncomfortable awareness of privilege. For the first time in my life, the efforts of terror crept into the corners of my world. I was barely touched by the fear that marginalized communities have felt for centuries. And for a moment, I considered removing my child from his beloved temple. Away from his Morahs and the gracious family of faith that has loved him so well.
So that I might feel safe. So that I wouldn’t have to worry.
But these people I love? These people who nurture my child as if he were their own? They can’t just stop being Jewish.
When do they get to feel safe?
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