Some time ago it occurred to me that if the “terrorists” who perpetrated the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11/01 wanted to maintain the fear, it wouldn’t be that hard. They could easily walk onto a PATH train–a kind of subway that runs between Newark NJ and the World Trade Center–with a large device in a backpack. If they got into the first car, especially on an anniversary of the event, and set it off just as the train was reaching the WTC station, they would kill many people, disrupt communications, and put themselves back on the front pages of the media center of the world. This thought occurred to me as I was sitting in the front car of the PATH train on Sept. 11 2006.
I was reminded of it of course by the reactions to the attacks in Paris, hearing of the terrible deaths and then the brave reactions of people who would not let their own lives be altered by the madness of a few. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction–the equal reaction has apparently found the perpetrator, and the opposite reaction has seen the French people refuse to be intimidated, much as Americans refused in the days after 9/11. But it is disheartening to hear the rhetoric that has emerged from those events, and it’s become evident that “terrorism” is a great gift to the “law and order” mindset, and the sound bite policies that want to respond with border closures and isolationism. This is a long haul problem, of which we are not innocent, and there will no doubt be other attacks in the future. My point is that we cannot stop living our lives. We are all going to die at some point, and the odds of dying from “terrorism” are minuscule compared to the other plagues of modern life: auto accidents, gun violence, bad diet and so on. The good news is that we are in fact immortal–we don’t really die, just change bodies. To the extent that events like this cause us to examine our own mortality, our reason for being on the earth, they can be gifts to us as well. This is of course not to let the “terrorists” off the hook–they will have much to answer for after their own life on earth ceases. But we must learn to see this kind of twisted violence, even if we lose our own life, or that of someone we love, as just another form of human ignorance, and fear not.