Barely one year after the terrorist bombings of the London underground and bus systems in England, our nerves are still slightly frayed. Explosions, train wrecks and natural disasters scare us, no matter if they happen on the other side of the globe.
It’s not that we didn’t care before 9/11, it’s just that now, every loss of human life strikes a sentimental chord and we thank goodness it’s not us, our families, or friends.
Two days ago my phone rang with my aunt on the line. I picked it up thinking she just wanted to chat.
“He’s OK,” were the first words out of her mouth.
“What are you talking about?” I asked as my heart raced to my throat.
“There was an explosion in New York City, on the upper East side, but your dad’s fine.”
Relieved, I asked her for more details, and she gave me what she could. Turns out some man was allegedly trying to commit suicide and blow up his townhouse in a messy divorce situation. He succeeded in destroying his home, but lived through the explosion. The house was six blocks from my dad’s office and about nine from his apartment building.
I was surprised at how quickly two little positive words — “he’s OK” — made my insides go flip-flop. But in our tumultuous world, those positive words I heard meant that someone else was probably hearing the opposite. And that’s enough to make you feel sick.
Nearly five years ago when Manhattan was under a sea of smoke and the debris of two massive structures, the World Trade Centre’s twin towers, and the smell of death and destruction wafted heavily up the city’s streets, I sat in my mother’s house, safe in Toronto, waiting desperately for the phone to ring with my father’s voice on the other end.
Back then my aunt had called to tell me she thought my dad was uninvolved, but that wasn’t good enough for me. It was 24 hours before he and I were able to make contact, and I knew he was safe and untouched by the terrorist attacks.
On Monday, I was able to reach him right away on his cellphone. The sound of his voice made the rest of my anxieties disappear. He really was OK.
On a sunny summer’s day, with the excitement of the World Cup Italian victory still nipping at our heels, it’s hard to imagine that the world we live in isn’t a secure and comfortable place. We sit outside on our porches at night, sipping wine and talking with neighbours; we take our children to various types of camps where they frolic and play; we even leave our front doors unlocked to run down to the corner store for milk.
We try to live normally, but defining what that means today is sometimes difficult.