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On Being Brave In A Terrifying World

What's a parent to do? We have already emphasized the importance of wearing a seatbelt and a bike helmet, writes Holly Robinson. Now we have to remind our children to wear running shoes in case there's an attack. In this photo, a woman lays a bouquet of flowers in the London Bridge area of London, Monday, June 5, 2017. Police arrested several people and are widening their investigation after a series of attacks described as terrorism killed several people and injured more than 40 others in the heart of London on Saturday. (Alastair Grant/ AP)
What's a parent to do? We have already emphasized the importance of wearing a seatbelt and a bike helmet, writes Holly Robinson. Now we have to remind our children to wear running shoes in case there's an attack. In this photo, a woman lays a bouquet of flowers in the London Bridge area of London, Monday, June 5, 2017. Police arrested several people and are widening their investigation after a series of attacks described as terrorism killed several people and injured more than 40 others in the heart of London on Saturday. (Alastair Grant/ AP)
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My youngest son went to a concert on Saturday night. My oldest son attended a music festival in New York on Sunday. Despite the terrorist attacks in Manchester and around London Bridge, neither of them even considered staying home.

Meanwhile, their sister is in graduate school in Oregon. She loves visiting friends in Portland, where two people were fatally stabbed as they tried to intervene when another man was yelling hate slurs at Muslim women passengers.

They don't think of themselves as brave, my kids. They just go out and live their lives. Really, what greater joys are there in life, than to see friends, hear music, and eat out in a cafe now and then?

For parents of young adults, the world seems suddenly more terrifying. Bad enough that we had to weather violent video games, binge drinking at parties, occasional fender benders, bad breakups and worries over college entrance exams and job searches. Now there's this, too: Your kid might be the victim of a bomb at a concert or a knife-wielding assailant in a trendy part of town.

A man hugs a boy as they look at flowers near London Bridge on Monday. (Isabel Infantes/AP)
A man hugs a boy as they look at flowers near London Bridge on Monday. (Isabel Infantes/AP)

What's a parent to do?

For starters, we must add safety lessons to the ones we have already taught them. We have already emphasized the importance of wearing a seatbelt and a bike helmet, and cautioned them to never set down a drink in a crowded bar. Now we have to remind them to wear comfortable shoes to concerts — footwear that's easy to dance in is probably also easy to run in if there's an attack.

We must tell our kids to carry a cellphone and make sure it's fully charged. Download a flashlight app if you don't have one already. If you hear gunshots, act quickly and quietly. Leave your belongings behind except your cellphone.

If you hear a bomb blast, move in the opposite direction. Do not run, or the police might think you're the suspect. Stay away from glass windows. Once you're in a safe place, then run — as far away as possible. Only then should you call the police.

If you need to hide, consider your escape routes. Avoid dead ends and hide using a wall or locked door if possible to keep a barrier between yourself and gunfire. Wedge chairs or anything else against doors as barriers. Switch your cellphone to silent.

When you do encounter the police, remember that they will be armed. Do everything they tell you to do. Don't make sudden movements or gestures. Keep your hands visible and stay calm.

Have I thought of all of the possibilities? Is this the right advice? The information that will save my children's lives?

And what do I do when my children go out, to stay sane in the face of my ever-hovering anxiety?

Have I thought of all of the possibilities? Is this the right advice? The information that will save my children's lives?

Everything, in the face of terrorism, seems so petty. Going to the grocery store and the dry cleaner. Filling the car with gas. Taking the dog to the vet. Making clients happy by turning work in on time. Listening to politicians say, “This has got to stop,” or to people saying, “We have to keep living our lives, or the terrorists win.”

Of course, it should stop, but how? And when? Even when we involve ourselves in politics, or reach out to help newly arrived immigrants, we have to wonder if it's even possible to stop the tide of hate that seems to be building.

Meanwhile, we keep living our lives. That's what people do to survive. Even in Syria, in Nigeria, in Afghanistan, and in all of the other places around the world where violence is so commonplace, people continue to struggle, to put food on the table and educate their children.

This past weekend, I worked in my garden. Finished the mulching and the planting. Then I vacuumed the kitchen and put in a load of wash.

This week, I'll take the train to New York City for work. I will look over my shoulder when I get to Grand Central, wearing flat shoes and carrying my cellphone, fully charged, just in case.

Related:

Holly Robinson Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Holly Robinson is a novelist, journalist and celebrity ghost writer whose newest novel is "Folly Cove." She is also the author of "The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter: A Memoir."

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