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Going To A Pop Concert Shouldn't Have To Be An Act Of Bravery

Mother Amy Trippitt and her daughter Grace, who attended the concert in Manchester, Britain, Tuesday May 23, 2017, a day after an explosion. An apparent suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device that killed over a dozen people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, Manchester police said Tuesday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
Mother Amy Trippitt and her daughter Grace, who attended the concert in Manchester, Britain, Tuesday May 23, 2017, a day after an explosion. An apparent suicide bomber set off an improvised explosive device that killed over a dozen people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert, Manchester police said Tuesday. (Danny Lawson/PA via AP)
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I almost didn’t turn on the radio this morning.

I knew what the coverage would be, and I knew it would devastate me. All those tweens and teens, happily bopping away at a pop concert, their parents at a safe distance, or so they thought. And my girls — did they need to hear more of it, too?

“It could have been us,” I said before I stopped myself.

“I wouldn’t go to an Ariana Grande concert,” my 12-year-old, Stella, replied.

But it was us. Just a few years ago, we maneuvered our way in with the throngs of other adolescent girls and their middle-aged parents to see Katy Perry at TD Garden in Boston. It was the year after the Boston Marathon had been attacked. I remember thinking, If someone wanted to do some harm... but then I put it out of my mind. Because what were we going to do? Stop living our lives?

I paid the exorbitant ticket prices and sat in the nosebleed seats with my precious daughters, delighting in how delighted they were. Stella was young enough then that she was willing to sit next to me, turning to look up at me with joy when she recognized a song, then the next song, then the next. Lila, my older daughter, sat apart from me — but I could see her. I knew right where she was. She was at a safe distance. Or so I thought. Just as those parents in Manchester thought.

“It could have been us,” I said before I stopped myself.

I don’t need to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: There is no greater nightmare.

A pop concert? Of all places? Ariana Grande, Katy Perry — any pop singer — clearly the idea was to strike a place where people were relaxed and happy and their guards were down. We know in our bones that this was the point, just as hitting the Boston Marathon was also the point. This strategy is timeworn — we’ve seen it again and again and again, so the perpetrators must think it works. The only way such a strategy can really work, though, is if we all stop going to concerts, or stop running marathons, or stop flying planes, or stop opening borders. And we’re not going to stop. Right? It’s called terrorism for a reason — it’s meant to leave us terrified. But that requires our consent. As great leaders have said, if we change our lives — and more than that, if we alter our values, our ideals — that is when we’ve lost.

But — I know. It’s easy for me to say, all the way over here, gripping my kitchen counter as my daughters eat their breakfast, safe and alive and complaining about the impending school day. Easy for me to say as I make the choice about whether to turn on the radio. Easy for me to say, a parent who has not lost a child in a senseless, horrific attack, has not lost everything that really matters. I know.

For Stella’s birthday, she wants to go to a Bruno Mars concert. I’ve already said yes. The only way I can back out is if her musical taste changes — and let’s face it, that’s a real possibility at her age. But I don’t want this to feel like a brave act. I just want to bring my baby to a concert, take delight in her delight, and watch her joy from a safe distance — and know that she is really and truly safe.

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Naomi Shulman Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Naomi Shulman lives with her daughters in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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