My first thought when I got the alert was calculating how long ago my wife left? I just got back from dropping my son off at school as she was headed out the door. We’re two stops away in the direction of her commute from the subway station that just became famous to the rest of the country. It was the scene where a man in an orange construction vest and a gas mask threw a smoke grenade into a subway car filled with morning commuters before firing multiple gun shots. At least thirteen people were injured.
I immediately texted my wife to find out if she took the train. This was one occasion where I was thankful that she spent the extra money to take a Lyft to the office. She was safe.
After that, I went to check with my Dad if my stepmom took the ferry or the train to work today. She was actually still home. She was running late and was about to head out the door to take the train before my Dad showed her the news on TV.
The relief set in as I made my way back upstairs to my apartment and I spontaneously started to cry.
I was planning to write a whole different piece today about a breakthrough technology in Geothermal energy led by the startup, Quaise Energy. I hoped to get back to my original aim with this newsletter to report on reasons for optimism and the ways that technology can help solve some of our big problems. With everything going on in the world, I thought we could use some reasons to feel optimistic. And I will make another attempt at that in another installment. For now, I still need to process.
Three hours have passed since the tragic event. I’m typing these words with the persistent whirl of helicopters and sirens blaring outside my window. I wonder what my 6 year old son is thinking while his school is in lockdown. Does he give any thought to the sounds? What are his teachers telling them about what’s happening? Are they scared? Or just oblivious?
My heart goes out to anybody who was there in those terrifying moments and to all the families who feared for their loved ones. I also feel a profound sense of gratitude because my family is safe, but also because as sad as this was, it was an exceptional event in the US. It makes national news because it is rare. The uncertainty of my family’s safety and well being is not a perpetual fear that hums in the background like those helicopters hovering outside my window.
For a very brief moment the terror that many families face all the time in many parts of the world hit a little closer to home. Not just because it happened in NY, but because I’ve taken my son to school on that train. My wife takes that train to work. And not just on that train, but at that time.
It’s a stark reminder of how sheltered many of us are from some harsh realities that persist in the world. We can hand a few bucks through our car window to the homeless man sleeping on the street in the freezing rain. We can post blue and yellow squares to Instagram to “support” the Ukrainian families hiding in basements below a daily barrage of bombs and shrapnel. We can yell at our TV screens for neglecting the millions of children starving in Afghanistan or Yemen. And we can venmo our donations to any number of other humanitarian crises. But, then we get to return to the comfort of our homes unconcerned with our next meal or the worry that a loved one might not return home.
I’ll get back to writing that optimistic piece next week. Today, I’m not feeling it.