Is It Safe?

Earth from space“Do you think I should still go to Israel?” our 25-year-old daughter Ally asks. She’s nervous after the June 8th  shooting deaths in a popular Tel Aviv market.

“Security’s incredibly tight there, so you’re probably safe,” my husband reassures her.

“I confess it makes me nervous,” I chime in, “But who would have thought before this weekend that it was risky going to Orlando, Florida? These things are incredibly scary, but still really rare.”

They don’t seem rare to Ally. She was 8 years old when two teenagers unloaded their lethal anger at Columbine; 10 when the Twin Towers fell; 12 when we went to war against Iraq. Ally was terrified whenever planes flew over her middle school, afraid they’d drop bombs. Mass shootings have unfolded with increasing regularity throughout her life—Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Newtown. A year after Ally graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a disgruntled young man murdered six students on the same streets she had walked along every day during college.This Friday marks the first anniversary of Dylan Roof’s murderous rampage in a South Carolina church. The Planned Parenthood gunman, San Bernardino, Orlando–the list goes on and on, though many more daily gun homicides and suicides never make the news.

“Has it gotten worse?” Ally asks. “Were you scared growing up?”

We recount the threat of nuclear war, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, the war in Vietnam, Jonestown, the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. These were our times. People just a few years older feared polio. Our parents lived through all this as well as the Great Depression and WWII.

The truth is, though, that I was never scared. Even the possibility of my older brothers and male friends getting drafted seemed abstract. The outside world seemed far away, the violence less random.

But now with news feeds implanted in our brains 24/7, the outside world has broken through.

My family is lucky. We’ve never had to flee a war zone, worry about catching a stray bullet walking in our neighborhood, gone hungry or homeless, been brutalized by police or bullied for being different.  Ally fears an infinitesimally small possibility, not the grinding daily reality too many live.

I remind Ally of a service trip to Mexico she made a few years earlier with a church group. Before they left, the minister tried to assuage parents’ anxiety about drug violence.

“The world is a risky place,” she said. “I worry each time my own children travel to faraway countries. But then I realize that the far greater risk comes from never leaving home.”


How do you answer the question, “Is it safe?”



4 thoughts on “Is It Safe?

  1. Safety is a hard one for me. Frankly I realized a few (4-5) years ago that I had rarely felt safe most of my life. I started working on this by using a mantra to remind myself that I am indeed both safe and loved (the two are very related in my mind). The world is a dangerous place, but I’m not sure if it is really any more dangerous now than it was decades (or even hundreds) of years ago. Having a 24 hour news cycle in our faces changes our perspective on fear in my opinion.

    We just got back from a 5 week trip to Europe. Many friends commented that they wouldn’t go there now; our original plans were to spend 3 weeks in Turkey and we changed that time to Vienna, Austria because of the recent terrorist bombings there. But when I read books set long ago, in any part of the planet, I read about random acts of violence and death.

    So where are we safe? I think it has to be cultivated from the inside out, along with keeping current on the State Department’s warnings .

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Heidi. I have long thought that safety (or lack thereof) is primarily internal. And the externals are not always what one supposes. My daughters have traveled and lived abroad extensively–Europe, Russia, Latin America, Cuba, a little bit in the Middle East. They feel most at risk in the U.S., with its absolutely crazy gun culture not to mention rape culture.

  2. Hard question. My daughter has been to Israel and went close to Syria. I wouldn’t advocate doing that now. I guess listen to Government travel advice and steer clear of any known risks. But you can never totally prepare. I walked past a group of youths a few weeks back on my route from bus stop to home. Less than half an hour later there was a shooting there. Gang related apparently. Sometimes you can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time but mostly you’re not and I don’t believe we should live our lives in fear of the “what ifs?” Won’t stop you worrying of course. I hope she has a safe trip if she goes.

    • Very thoughtful and wise words, Wendy. I certainly wouldn’t put Syria–or Iraq or Pakistan or Afghanistan on my travel itinerary either! It’s very sad how the hot spots keep increasing. My daughter’s high school track coach leads a small group of students on an in-depth tour of several European and one Middle Eastern country every other year. Syria and Lebanon used to be OK, and my daughter went to Egypt. I don’t think the most recent tours have hit any of those countries. Although come to think of it, all of the participants were most at risk not from violence erupting but from the coach’s driving! I am glad you were not in the wrong place at the wrong time a few weeks ago!

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