When Terror Strikes Close

 I was a 20 something before I learned that bad things do happen to good people.  Born and raised in a small town in Ohio and having had an idyllic childhood, this was the unhappiest of revelations.

Growing up , I had always thought that if you were a good person,  only good things happened.  Okay, don’t laugh , I’ll admit I was very naïve’.

As I’m sure you know, and as I have come to know, it  doesn’t matter how good, how strong, how kind we are or what family lineage we hail from (look at the Kennedy’s) we are all up for the same possibilities of unfortunate things happening in our lives.

Bad things also happen to collective groups of people.  It’s said that everyone in the United States knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who died in 9/11.  That was the first time the majority of Americans became keenly aware that terrorists were real.   “Usually” terror happens far away from the US but, for my daughter, last weekend,  terror struck close.

My daughter Aly has a continuous texting thread with some girls she met one summer in Washington DC.  One of the girls, Ellie, from Minneapolis,  is now taking summer classes at Kings College  in London.   Her last text Saturday night was a cheerful one,  all about the chic little restaurant she was having dinner at in London.   

Later that night we heard about the attack…. Terror on London Bridge.

The fear crept in for Aly, “Mom she hasn’t texted us back, what if she’s dead?” 

“London is a big place”, I assured her “I’m sure she’s okay, sell phones are probably down and besides she was out having a good time why should she be texting you guys?  Let’s see what happens in the morning.”

Sunday was filled with sun, baseball and speculation.  I tried to coach her out of worrying, she tried, but she worried.   

People in London began checking themselves safe on Facebook.  Aly’s friend, Ellie,  did  not. 

“ Mom I think something’s happened”.    

“Well a lot could have happened cell phone reception could still be down or she could have broken her phone“  I offered.

Hours passed no text returned, and no safe check in on FB.  One of the girls texted Ellie’s Mother and the text said non-delivered.  Could she be on a plane to London? 

Speculation and fear were making a deep groove in Aly’s head “ I’m never traveling again" she said. “Mom, aren’t you afraid to travel now?”

“No, where would you like to go?” I teased, “ I can have my bag packed in an hour” (wink.)

“When I have kids I’m home schooling them, I’m never letting them out of my sight.” she proclaimed.  “Aren’t you worried about Scout in school?” 

“No, worrying won’t help anything.  You do what you can to protect yourself and who you love but you can’t stop living” I explained.

Monday evening Ellie’s Mother finally responded with the news no one wanted to hear.  Yes, Ellie was hit on London Bridge.  She had suffered a collapsed lung and a broken hip.  The authorities believe she was not directly struck by the terrorists van but by another car veering out of the way but included in the victims count none the less.

Luckily Ellie will heal and of course Aly’s fears will ease   It’s true, the world can be a scary place but we do have a lot we can control if we want too.

We can choose where we live.

We can choose what schools we attend.

We can choose where our children go or don’t go to school.

We can choose to travel or not.

We can drive the safest cars.

We can wear bike helmets, heart guards and safety pads for every sport.

 We can buy the best car seats.

We can put our infants in beds with no bumpers and never fall asleep with our new born babies next to us.

But even after all of these precautions, stuff happens. 

Now, we can choose to live in fear and bubble wrap our children before leaving the house or we can live our lives, always aware of our surroundings but choosing to live anyway.   The terrorists want us to run and hide.    As I told my daughter this weekend, don’t hide away from life, just existing is worse than dying.   Don’t let the terrorists win.   

I have no idea how this experience will shape her friend Ellie. But, I firmly believe that what we live through is meant to grow us into the person we are meant to be.