Terror was once something that, for most people, existed outside the boundaries of their lives. It was something they hoped to never experience, although everyone could probably think of at least one occasion when they were truly terrified. Then terrorism became part of our national reality. It encroached upon us before 9/11, but certainly nothing has been the same since that September day when the unthinkable happened. Slowly and inexorably, we have become accustomed to living with fear — not just as a concept or a cautionary awareness, but as part of our daily lives.
At 6 PM on Saturday evening, the Venice Boardwalk was crowded with people, as it usually is on a warm summer evening, when one man got into his car, maneuvered it around the metal barriers and began mowing people down as if they were nothing more than bowling pins. Which, to him, they apparently weren’t. One news story said he asked the police how many he hit. One young woman, just married and on her honeymoon, died. 11 others are badly injured. Those who weren’t injured but ran for their lives, or witnessed the carnage, will never be the same.
Terror isn’t just something in the newspaper anymore. It’s potentially around every corner. And it resides in our psyches. Schools, movie theaters, shopping malls, neighborhood streets are never assumed to be safe now — too many things have happened to teach us just how random violence can be. What happens to a society that lives with a constant undercurrent of fear? By definition, constant fear weakens and strains even the strongest among us. With each shooting, with each unspeakable act like the driver mowing people down in Venice Saturday night, I wonder who we are becoming and how we will ever be able to rise above the terror that has come to live amongst us. I have no answers for this, just questions. And heartache.