When Your Home Becomes a Headline

March 25, 2016

What happens when the place you call home becomes the next tragic headline?

A month ago, I woke up to a message on a Sunday morning from a friend in Australia. “I hope you’re safe. My thoughts are with everyone in Kalamazoo.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but it didn’t take me long to find out. I typed the name of this town I call home into Google. Instantly headlines appeared: “Mass shooting in Kalamazoo,” “Six dead, two injured after shooting rampage in Michigan.”

My mom was visiting that weekend. The night before, we had gone to the cinema my parents both love to go to when they’re in town. We drank beer and watched Channing Tatum dance around in a sailor suit. On the way to the movie theater, I was telling my mom how much I like living here, how I feel like I am finally part of a community. After years of moving from one city to another, never living longer than a few years in any one place, I am finally starting to feel like I’m a part of something. Like I might actually live somewhere I can call home.

I had no idea that mere miles away a crazed man had just gunned down four people at a Cracker Barrel and two other people in the parking lot of a car dealership.

I’ve written so many times on my blog about how you shouldn’t let the fear of bad things happening to you stop you from traveling or doing other scary things because bad things can happen to you anywhere — even in your home.

It’s one thing to say that.

It’s a whole other thing to wake up to your home becoming the next tragic headline.

This week, the people of Brussels woke up to find their own home in the news. Shortly before that it was Istanbul and Ankara. Months before that it was Paris. The city where these people lived, loved, worked, danced, hugged their children was now a place of horror, a cautionary tale.

And now the headlines have changed again. They’re asking if it’s safe to travel in Europe or Turkey. And the U.S. State Department has warned American citizens to “exercise vigilance” when traveling throughout all of Europe.

What these headlines and travel advisories fail to mention is that Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul and Paris are not just far-off places on a map for people to visit — they are homes. These places are not just populated by airports and museums and hotels and five-star restaurants — but by houses and schools and offices and corner stores where you know the guy behind the counter and you can go there in your pajamas and you don’t feel like anyone’s going to judge you.

I don’t see headlines asking if it’s safe to have a home. I don’t see advisories telling us to “exercise vigilance” in our daily lives — while walking to work, while meeting friends for coffee, while at happy hour with our coworkers, while standing in our pajamas at the corner store, a half gallon of two-percent milk in our hands.

But maybe it’s in these places we call home that we need to be the most cautious. These places where we feel safe and secure are not any safer than those far-off places on a map. In fact, they are more dangerous. Because when something horrible happens in that place you call home, it doesn’t just mean a headline breaks. Your own heart breaks with it.

17

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 25, 2016 at 9:32 am jocelyne marchand said:

    wonderful writing and not one “you guys”

  2. On March 25, 2016 at 10:30 am zoe said:

    Powerful stuff.

    Though these days there seems no shortage of politicians who will tell us “you should be afraid of everyone, everywhere” 🙁
    zoe recently posted..Sometimes travel days are their own stories.

  3. On March 25, 2016 at 10:51 am Debby Sullivan said:

    Well said, Sally.

  4. On March 25, 2016 at 12:31 pm kathi said:

    beautifully stated!

  5. On March 25, 2016 at 4:40 pm Rick said:

    Great blog. Living in Michigan and with family in Kalamazoo it was startling to hear that tragic news but fear will never hold me back from the places I want to visit. My last road trip was to Eastern Europe, driving nearly 4500 miles with not one problem (other than those of my own making – slipping on a marble floor flat on my back in a bathroom) and felt safe during every mile surrounded by good people. I continue to plan for a road trip around Turkey beginning in Istanbul and circling around the country. I’d probably have more chance of getting hurt at a political rally than in Turkey.

    • On March 26, 2016 at 12:13 pm Sally said:

      I can totally relate to the not having any problems — other than the ones of your own making. The few times I’ve gotten in trouble while traveling, it’s been my own darn fault. And your trip to Turkey sounds amazing!

  6. On March 26, 2016 at 8:35 am me said:

    Well, the thing is, is does not help to be “vigilant”. What does that even mean?
    If someone wants to kill you, or wants to kill any random group of people, there’s just no way to stop them. (Well, other than everybody staying inside all day and having a bunch of personal bodyguard robots.)

    My best friend lives and works in Brussels and yes, I was worried for a bit because she also happens to travel around a lot and could have easily been at the airport or the metro. And of course I’m very happy to know she’s safe.

    But we should not make the mistake now to change our behaviour and be afraid and distrustful of each other.
    If we do that, they have won.

    It’s much more likely to get killed in a car accident or by some kind of cardiovascular disease than to be bombed to pieces by some asshole, and most people still drive and walk around everyday and don’t only eat plants.

    Just keep on living and don’t fear them 🙂

    Greetings from Europe!

    • On March 26, 2016 at 11:33 am Sally said:

      I do think a certain amount of vigilance is called for — whether at home or traveling. Don’t walk down dark alleys by yourself at night. That kind of thing. But none of the people who were killed in Kalamazoo last month or in Brussels this week or in Ankara last week were doing anything particularly dangerous — there were no dark alleys involved. They were just living their lives — going out to eat, sitting in the airport, shopping. So, yes, vigilance will only get you so far. As I said in my post (and about a million times before) bad things can happen anywhere to anyone, but we also shouldn’t let our fear of those bad things happening dictate our lives.

  7. On April 1, 2016 at 2:42 am Aniket said:

    Hi Sally !

    good narrated.

    when such incident happens, really it will become difficult for you…
    Aniket recently posted..IIT Ropar Recruitment 2016 – Posts of Medical Officer

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