By Robert Mann
I’m not a fatalist, but when I leave town on a trip, I sometimes have a nagging feeling, “Maybe, this time, I won’t return.” I’ll briefly fret about a plane crash, a car wreck or a random act of violence. I worry, I pray and I always hug my wife and kids a little tighter and a bit longer when I leave.
Who knows what could happen? I do know that every day hundreds of people drive to work, go for a walk, take a fishing trip or leave on a foreign trip – and don’t return. Some tragedy or mishap – a mass shooting, a lightning strike, a drunken driver – occurs somewhere every day.
The world can be hazardous in even the most mundane ways. For example, I’ve lost count of my narrow escapes crossing streets in London after forgetting to look right instead of left. The Brits, as you know, drive on the left side, which can be deadly to a distracted American who steps into a crosswalk in front of an oncoming double-decker bus.
Now, after violent events in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul and Ankara (and countless others before them), I can add “terrorist attack” to the list of calamities that might befall me.
For some reason, the recent bombings in Istanbul hit me particularly hard. I have dear friends who live there. I’ve visited the sites of both recent bombings many times. On my last visit to Istanbul, I stayed just off Istiklal Street, only one block from where a suicide bomber killed five and wounded 36 people on March 19.
Turkey has become more dangerous since the summer of 2014 when I was there last. But here’s the thing: I’d return to Istanbul tomorrow if I had the chance. I’d walk defiantly down lovely, vibrant Istiklal. And I’d visit the site of last January’s bombing, the majestic German Fountain near the historic Sultanahmet mosque. There, I would say a prayer for the 10 tourists, eight of them Germans, killed at that spot.
Would I worry about my safety? Sure. But I also fret about the not-insubstantial dangers of driving from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. I still regularly take that risk. I also worry about allowing my teenage children to drive. My wife and I hold our collective breath whenever they leave. We offer a silent thanksgiving when we hear what is now one of life’s sweetest sounds – that of their car pulling into the driveway.
It would be safer, no doubt, to never leave our house. But what kind of life would that be?
All this is on my mind as I plan to take my family to Europe this summer. Will we be safe? What are the risks? Should we stay home for safety’s sake? Here’s the best answer I can conceive: I will not submit to the terrorists. I refuse to grant them control over my life. I will not let them govern my emotions or stoke irrational fears.
Of course, you don’t need a European trip to flout the Islamic State. The attacks in Brussels were indirectly aimed at Americans at home, too. Terrorists have already struck repeatedly in the United States (see New York, Boston or San Bernardino).
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