WE WILL NOT BE TERRORIZED
Not Now; Not Ever
It was a picture-perfect morning. I had just returned from an absolutely gorgeous walk downtown where I’d seen the most adorable, happiest, colorfully dressed little “Halloweeners” squeeling and laughing their way from block to block. I couldn’t stop grinning. “Now this is what Halloween is all about,” I said out loud to no one in particular.“This is what New York is all about! God, I love it!”
But “this” didn’t last for long.
I had already walked too far uptown to be even faintly aware of the terrible and unthinkable events that occurred out of my sight and hearing. Here’s how Jose DelReal and Corey Kilgannon described what they heard and saw in their Wednesday New York Times piece: “The screams seemed too vivid from the start, too visceral to be celebrating a crisp and sunny Halloween in Lower Manhattan.”
DelReal and Kilgannon went on to write that it was “a tragedy that unfolded in minutes and for hours and hours remained too senseless to believe…Sirens and police tape surrounded the white pickup truck that a 29-year-old assailant transformed into an instrument of terror when he began hitting cyclists and joggers along the West Side Highway bike path. A mangled school bus sat next to it.”
Evidently, the attack had been prepared for over a period of weeks.
DelReal and Kilgannon reported that “bodies lay strewn along the way” and that “the scene was as confusing as it was gruesome.”
One would-be Good Samaratin named Tom Kendrick, a thirty-six year old lawyer from the West Village, said he saw three battered bodies as well as battered cyclists. “I approached to see if I could help,” he said, “and they did not need help – they appeared to be dead…It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal.”
In addition to the dead, at least a dozen people were injured in the rampage. The Times described it as the “deadliest terrorist attack to strike New York City since September 11, 2001.”
But Governor Cuomo spoke out powerfully in his response. He was resolute in his declaration that “We have not been terrorized; we will not be terrorized.”
His words, his voice and his demeanor made it clear that he meant “Not now. Not ever.”
I’m reminded of the brilliant N.Y. Times piece written by Tom Friedman immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings that occurred on April 15th, 2013. It was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon…
Friedman entitled his piece, “Bring On The Next Marathon.”
He wrote about the “American Imperative to clean up, take care of each other…and move on.To do anything less is to empower terrorism and embolden terrorists,” he said.
“Let’s repair the sidewalks immediately, fix the windows, fill the holes and leave no trace – no shrines, no flowers, no statues, no plaques – and return life to normal as fast as possible…” Friedman said. “And let whomever did this know that while they have sickeningly maimed and killed some of our brothers and sisters, they have left no trace on our society or way of life.”
“Let there be no reminder whatsoever,” he said, “of what President Obama called this ‘heinous and cowardly act of terror.’”
I applauded Friedman’s attitude then and still do now. This is America. We’re the people who run towards the blast – to help – not away from it – to hide.
“Let’s schedule another Boston Marathon as soon as possible,” Friedman urged. “Cave dwelling is for terrorists. Americans? We run in the open on our streets…in shorts not armor, with abandon and never fear…”
As I’ve written before, “Terrorism” comes in many shapes and sizes in our lives. Some of it is even self-imposed. We can be terrified of being hurt, terrified of failing, terrified of the unknown. And we can feed that “terror” by losing our trust – in ourselves, in each other, in the ultimate goodness of most people, in life itself – and replace that trust with suspicion – suspicion of everything and everybody.
Suspicion feeds fear. Let’s not fall for it. If we do, terrorism, however you define it in your own life, wins. And we won’t allow that. Not now. Not ever. There is too much good to be done.
And we’re the one to do it.
We are not afraid. Let’s remember that. And let’s keep running…towards the possibility, towards the opportunity to make a difference, towards the finish line - however we define that in our own lives.
Hey, and for a little extra burst of energy, let’s belt out, “New York, New York,” okay?
“Start spreadin’ the news…
I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York…”
Here’s “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself to sing it with you…