Smoke on a Subway Platform

by wlancehunt, May 3, 2022 in Personal Narrative, psychology, resilience
  That Uncomfortable Sense of Vulnerability
 
 

  On the morning of April 12th, my son left for school as usual. He takes the R train to 36th street here in Brooklyn to wait on a close friend. Then, they take the D train to Columbus Circle in Manhattan and walk through Lincoln Center to their high school. Been going on (and off) for about three years now. No big shake anymore.
     Later I head to the “office,” the room next to the living room, and my wife looks over and says, “There’s been an attack at the 36th street stop.”
     “Brooklyn?”
     “Where Max waits for Andoni.”
     Furious checks. What’s happening? What do we know? Where is Max? Is he safe?
     It was a shooting. Multiple people sent to hospitals. Eight or ten, but the number kept going up. Some in critical condition. 
    An alert shrieks on my phone.

Emergency Alert on the Morning of April 12th

The area around the 36th street stop. 
     We hear helicopters. 
     One woman reports she was on the train when the car behind her filled with smoke, and she heard pops and saw people pressed up to the windows as if they were trying to get away from something. 
     Tweets show images of smoke. People on the ground. Blood on the platform. 
Where’s my son?
     Then, I see the shooting happened at 8:30. 
     Max and Andoni start school at 8:00. Okay.
     But still…
     Eventually, we confirm he’s safe. He and his friend.
     Yet, the shooter is on the loose. No motive. 
     Hours pass. No real news. Just rehashing what we already know. No one dead, at least. Not that we’ve heard.
     School over, the kids have to make it back home. With the subway shut down at 36th Street—a major artery for several subway lines.
     My wife’s office is in Manhattan, where she’d been traveling for years before the pandemic and knows a trick or three. She was able to direct the boys to an express bus that goes almost straight to our place. They just had to walk all way across Central Park and down a couple of streets. 

 They made it here and went to talk in his bedroom.  
     I let them know they just had a sip of what 9/11 was like—the fear, the fog, the violence, and harm. The smoke in the subway, just as I heard announced in 2001 on my way to work. 
     When I originally wrote this, the evening of the shooting, there’d been no deaths, no capture, and most unnervingly, no motive. Up to this point, it had NOT been treated as a terrorist attack.
     Max hadn’t wanted to go to school the next day. Understandably. As he had said, “If I’d gotten up and left early, I could be dead. Or in the hospital.”
     Without a reason for the attack, we weren’t sure he should go. Vague fear. Like the subway has gotten dangerous. Like our city has.

      Don’t like this. 

The next day?

 Max stayed home. The lunatic who did this had been still at large. Posted some crazy manifesto or other on YouTube. Guy had definitely lost touch with reality. 
     But the subway was back up and running, and the 36th Street stop was busy as usual, though with more cops. There and throughout the system, uniformed and plainclothes. Eerily reminiscent of the time after 9/11, though without the soldiers in camo, cradling with automatic weapons.
      It had been one of those days I couldn’t stop checking news sites, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.  
     It’s been quiet since. Still, no real answers except batshit crazy. Which doesn’t help much—sure, no sinister plot from afar.
     But how do you stop out of your f*ing mind?
     That sits with you. Never that far out of your thoughts. Better now, but when we go to that stop, it’s hard not to see the blood from the tweets and wonder.


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