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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/abstrkt.ch

Fear is part of New Yorkers' daily lives now, but so is overcoming it

By
Jillian Anthony
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This morning, I woke up in my Williamsburg apartment and immediately scanned Twitter on my phone. This isn't unusual for me, but it was unusual that I was checking for any news on the recent explosion in Chelsea. Specifically, I was making sure it was safe for me to go to work in Manhattan.

I've lived in New York City for five years, and worked in Times Square for one. When we were told our office was moving locations from the west side to the very heart of one of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world, a place that is a shining monument to American consumerism and wealth, I was displeased. Sure, the crowds just to get to my office door would be awful, but there was something else bothering me, deep in the back of my mind: Fear.

I'm not a fearful person, and when violent events occur in New York City, I take them in stride as best I can (after I'm done mourning them). But, if most New Yorkers are like me, we know that another terrorist attack on our city is completely likely. And we know it will probably be in one of the areas where the most people gather; i.e. Times Square. This is a reality we wake and sleep and walk around the city with. We carry a hushed sense of understanding that New York City has already been targeted by hateful, senseless violence before, and it may happen again. We carry that weight with us every day. 

It's a strange and disturbing existence. I lived 14 years of my life in a pre-9/11 world in the suburbs of Los Angeles, where the possibility of a terrorist attack never crossed my mind. But today, that prospect is real and urgent and in my thoughts. As a bomb exploded in New Jersey Saturday, then another in a dumpster in Chelsea, that dormant dread sprang to life. I instantly texted my close friends in Manhattan to make sure they were okay. Family members and friends from across the country checked in on me. I had no plans to leave my home that night, but if I had, I may have cancelled them—I know people who did. Our streets and subways closed, some parts of our lives came to a halt, and policemen flooded the streets. But, we're used to it. This is life in New York now.

So I woke up this morning, and seeing nothing severe on Twitter, went downstairs to ask my roommate if she had heard anything on the news I should be aware of before I left the house. I was asking, Will I be safe today? Will I feel secure walking the streets of my home? I'm not sure any of us can definitively answer "yes" to these questions on any given day (for many reasons beyond and more prevalent than terrorism). But we're here, in a city so many of us worship with fervor, and we don't let threats or fear or even actual attacks stop us from pursuing the full, teeming lives we moved here—or stayed here—to pursue in the first place. The fear is real, but we overcome it together, and keep moving forward, every day.

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