April 18, 2013 by Katia
I thought I was so cool when I posted the tweet about the aging widow, the Dutch lottery, Madoff and the heir to the throne who meet in my spam folder (true story). A few minutes later this came up on my feed, a tweet from one of my favourites:
I’m no pro, but this is my humor tip: know when to hold it.
— MarinkaNYC (@MarinkaNYC) April 16, 2013
When I read it blood raced to my cheeks. No, more like bubbled and was about to erupt. How could I have written something so tasteless? It was Tuesday. One day after the Boston Marathon bombing. Marinka was responding to direct event-related jokes, not my own tweet, as I later found out, but should I have thought more before posting a joke that starts with “a widow”, never mind the aging part? Absolutely. Deeply ashamed I’ve erased the tweet 5 minutes into its existence.
Growing up next to terror I, of all people, should have been more sensitive on a day like this. But here’s the thing, growing up next to terror is exactly what made that temporary brain fart possible.
On this week of blasts I want to talk about our brain on terror. To quote Marinka, I am no pro, I was just growing up in Tel Aviv during the 90’s and early 2000’s and can tell you about some features of a terror stricken reality:
I’ve heard bomb blasts twice. Was there a third, even a fourth blast that my mind decided not to store due to a lower impact end result? Very possible. One of the explosions I remember very well, was the one that killed 21 teenagers who were out on a Friday night lining up to get into a night club. I was able to hear it when I was living with my mom in our apartment on the opposite side of the city. The other blast I’d heard had sent me rushing home when I was outside walking my dog after work.
Since some of the deadliest terror acts happened on buses, I would often get off the bus before reaching my destination because someone looked or behaved suspicious/was carrying a big-ish bag/had a weird bulge in the tummy area which might have been a bomb belt/seemed nervous/looked at other people in a way that seemed strange.
If the bus stop was getting crowded, I would stand at a distance or walk to another station.
I would try to avoid public places but if I did go out to a restaurant/cafe, I’d choose my seat based on how far it was from the glass window in case of an explosion.
There was a guard in every mall checking your bag at the entrance. Some malls had metal detectors as well. Part of the daily discourse was, what good are those line ups at the entrance, when this is exactly what a terrorist seeks. Long line ups made me feel unsafe and were to be avoided.
I would be glued to the TV, following the breaking news, watching the reports from the hospitals, learning and soaking in every bit of information about the victims.
I would also learn, whether I wanted to or not, about the macabre scenes directed by the blast. I was not necessarily haunted by those images and visuals described by journalists, reporters and eye witnesses but rather by the unexpected quality of terror, its ability – without getting too graphic – to combine things that do not belong together and create an alternate reality where this was possible. Hell on earth.
One of the things that scared me probably just as much as me or a loved one witnessing a terror act was the consequent inability to get in touch with them and notify that I’m OK or find out that they were. Explosions would often affect cellular connection and lines crashed. I had a memorable nightmare, where a bomb goes off and I’m fine but I know that I have to call my mom because she is completely freaking out and when I finally get hold of her no voice comes out of her mouth because the panic she was in made her lose the ability to talk. That kind of unexpected outcome, so typical of terror, seemed so realistic that it was much more terrifying than any other detail in that dream.
And it was kind of like the chicken and the egg. The news watching and article reading generated more anxiety and the anxiety generated a need to follow the news so that you could manage your anxiety, prove to yourself that no one you knew was injured or worse, try to make sense of it, feed your inner terror analyst with useful info and add another “do” or “don’t” to the growing list of How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Terror.
We knew that certain days were more terror-act prone. Jewish or Israeli national holidays were days when you’d better not stick your nose out. Saturday evenings were another favourite, which is why my future husband and I did not go out for a while. Instead we would meet at my mom’s place and watch James Bond movies on TV until those were inevitably interrupted by the breaking news of another blast and once we had listened to the entire report, said goodbye to each other and learned on the next day that in that explosion on the previous night, his second cousin, Orit, had been killed by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem cafe.
Whether terror was happening or not, the TV was always switched on at my mom’s house and I overdosed on news. For good. Which is why I stopped watching it altogether once I’d moved in with my future husband. Which is why I never watch the news here in Canada, which is why I am blissfully ignorant and might have been unintentionally offensive on Tuesday.
It’s not that I don’t know about these things when they happen, that would be hard in the age of Twitter and being married to 36 Year Old. It’s just that I deliberately stay away from them. I cannot see anymore burnt buses, body parts, people in underwear on stretchers with cameras in their faces, people covered in blood dehumanized, running in each and every possible direction in terror, screaming, faces like Greek masks, clasping their heads with their hands. Crying children, terrified parents. Especially not that. I did hear about Boston, but I didn’t want to know.
RIP Martin, Krystle and Lingzi Lu.
Here are some more tweets that I agreed with that day.
One thing can be said for sure about people who plant bombs – they are the ultimate cowards – the lowest of the low – vermin #prayforboston
— Larry King(@kingsthings) April 16, 2013
Try & remember these feelings of anger & pain when you hear about explosions in other parts of the world. Far too common in too many places.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 15, 2013
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