What are the chances of being prevented from going somewhere because of an active shooter or bomb alert? We read about it in the papers, watch the aftermath on Facebook live video, or just miss it by an hour or a week.
Yesterday morning, a news app on my iPad reported a bomb that had detonated prematurely at Port Authority Terminal in New York. As my mother and I were just there the week before, I searched for a live video on Facebook and played it for us.
“Look! Remember walking down Eighth Avenue?” I exclaimed. “It’s deserted now. Everything is cauldroned off except for police cars and ambulance vehicles.”
This morning, I read the New York Times account of what happened.
It was not a close call by any means. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help recall the previous time I had been with my mother. Barely eight months earlier, we were walking into the Vegas mall to get lunch when we saw the exits closed off.
“What’s going on?”
“We don’t know. We’re just told not to let anybody onto the strip.”
We walked through the casino and found a restaurant. People were gathered at the window trying to fathom what else could go wrong after the early morning robbery in the jewelry store.
“Stand back! If the active shooter fires, it will aim directly at us.” Several SWAT vehicles were lined along the road facing a stranded bus. The shooter had let out the hostages only minutes earlier. The road, if not the entire strip, had been blocked off.
As soon as we were led to an available table and sat down, we heard a big boom. Something had gone off. It was just about the most exciting thing that happened during our short rendezvous in Las Vegas.
A few months later, in June, I was visiting friends in a suburb south of London. It was late at night, getting ready to sleep in the guest room when I saw a news alert about a car attack at London Bridge. Only six or seven hours earlier, I had changed trains at that station.
London Bridge is one of my favourite stations, for two of my friends work there and I love meeting them for lunch. This attack forced the closure of the station and the popular Borough Market.
Were these mere coincidences or the new normal?
Sixteen years ago, I walked from my boutique hotel in Little Korea to our offices on the fifth floor above Penn Station. While making tea in the kitchen, I saw a plane fly into one of the Twin Towers on the muted television set. I stumbled into the staff meeting unable to make sense of what I had just seen.
The world has not been the same since.