Can’t

My school district had a series of bomb threats back in the early 2000s. I was out sick when the one at my elementary school took place, and it turned out to be from a girl who thought she could get a few days off – third graders can be kind of stupid.

They were all essentially pranks, but they stemmed from a real fear – in that post-Columbine world, were we wrong to panic at the idea that one of these kids might be serious?

This was the same year as the attacks on September 11. I didn’t know what the World Trade Centers were – I didn’t even know what Muslims were. That whole section of the world was a vague concept, introduced to me through one violent day.

Mine was a childhood defined by paranoia – I’ve been anxious since those early days, but I’m certain this experience went beyond me. The early 2000s were a culture of fear.

I remember my mother picking me up, telling me how they got let out of work because her company could be a potential target. The following weeks, I was glued to the television set – which was a normal experience, except Spongebob was replaced by those two burning towers collapsing into dust.

In those following months, I learned of anthrax, snipers, the proper way to seal doors in case of gas attacks. There were weapons of mass destruction, terrorist cells, liquid bombs. None of this had happened in my town – yet. But the media wanted to make it clear that it could.

The news of the outside world can really creep into your private life – as a child, I had no clear idea of how to delineate why and where these things happened. But that box in my own living room kept saying the same thing over and over: be afraid, be afraid, be afraid…

Home was mostly safe. The only thing that could reach me there was one of those big bombs, but it’s not like anywhere outside would be safe from that either. There were tornadoes, sure – but it was somehow easier to accept that. Being in a town of 5,000 people located in the Midwest, they were certainly a bigger threat in my day-to-day life than anything man-made. Luckily, I had the news to keep me focused on the real danger.

So, there might be places to visit, people to see, but I’d much rather stay inside. You can’t make me leave. Everything I need is on the television set.

Life’s safer with the news turned on.

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