It is with deep sorrow, and a little fear as I clutch my Michael Kiwanuka tickets for tomorrow, that I extend my condolences to the people of London, Manchester and Manila. The threat of terrorism is unfortunately an uncomfortable reality that hangs over high-profile, popular events and locations. We should be able to gather for work and enjoy entertainment without fear that we may not return home. I’m not going to leave this post up long…I’ll probably delete it soon because I don’t want to dwell on dark topics…but I wanted to express sympathy to those of you who may have been affected, or know someone who was.
It’s not something new. It’s been present in our literature, cinema and art for longer than Guy Fawkes masks have been around. Thomas Harris’s first book wasn’t about Hannibal Lector; it was a 1975 thriller about the race to stop a blimp from bombing the Super Bowl.
Throughout my childhood, the specter of hijackings hanged over the act of flying but the first time terrorism really registered as something in my consciousness occurred as a kid, visiting London in the 80s at the end of the Troubles, when unable to return to our hotel because of a bomb threat. Then, during high school, the attacks in Oklahoma City and at our own Olympic Games in Atlanta captured our attention. And though I knew about it, the sarin attack in Tokyo occurred but the gravity and reality of it didn’t really hit me until I found myself in Kasumigaseki station many years later.
The events of September 11th didn’t really surprise me. I had been in the lounge at the top of one of the towers of the World Trade Center 6 months before, watching the birds circling below my feet and wondering what would happen if a plane was lost in the city. It had happened before, and it has happened since. Usually by accident, but it wasn’t hard to imagine an event where it wasn’t. And over the past 18 years, whether it be Bangkok, or Nairobi, or Paris with frustrating regularity there seems to be another attack which has me concerned about friends I met at that location, or family I know who frequent it, or friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends.
I work in DC, next to the Navy Yard, and was at work when a laid off contractor slipped through security and killed 13 people, one of whom had been evacuated but succumbed to his injuries in front of the CVS. We were locked down that day, just as our kids were last year when a divorced security guard started killing random people in parking lots around Montgomery County. That reminded my neighbors of the heightened fears during the DC sniper events since one of the shootings occurred at the gas station a block from here. I’m pretty jaded now.
It is madness, and I offer no advice or answers. I have none. I can only offer my sympathy and hope that this last one was the last one.