The news was the first alert I saw on my phone when I woke up that morning. March 22nd, 2016. Coordinated terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium. Dozens injured and many casualties. Police looking for suspects. Eventually our biggest fear came true, ISIS claims responsibility.
Bombings and shootings are becoming all too common and it seems to be happening everywhere. Despite the frequency, it still comes as a shock and rocks our world. But this time what happened in Europe was especially frightening to me. I was leaving the next day for France to visit my college daughter who is attending school abroad.
The phone calls and emails came in from friends and family who were concerned…” Maybe you should cancel your trip or at least skip part of it.” I have to admit, I was nervous myself. I was taking my 17 year old daughter with me to France. Our first stop was supposed to be Paris where terrorist had just struck in November. Once again, ISIS was to blame. And then on the day before I leave …the State Department issues a travel warning for all Americans heading to Europe. The word was, more attacks could be imminent. What should I do? Was I putting my family in harms way? Should I bring my daughter who was going to school in Europe back home?
I thought about cancelling the Paris part of my trip because big cities appear to be targets. I spoke to some friends who are regular travelers and decided I was going to go anyway with a slight change in plan. I would definitely be staying away from the metro and spending the extra money for cabs just to play it safe. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck underground if something should happen.
So my youngest and I flew to Paris, met my other daughter at the airport, and we headed to the city. I have to say I was relieved to get out of the airport. I had read the most vulnerable locations at an airport are the departure and arrival areas because they don’t require security checks.
We made it to the city and I couldn’t help notice. Parisians were carrying on with their lives just like they always do.
Sadly, it’s been that way for years in European countries as security is always tight because of continued threats of terrorism. But I have to say, I felt safer in Paris than I did in my hometown of Chicago.
As of April 4th, 807 people have been the victims of shootings in Chicago and 152 people have died. This is happening all over the city, not just in the “worst” neighborhoods. So when my concerned family and friends told me NOT to go to Paris, I reminded them that maybe fear should drive me out of the Chicago area too.
That same week I was in France, I got an alert not once but twice saying Washington D.C was on lockdown. Another alert warned me the Peoria airport had been evacuated because of a “suspicious bag” found unattended.
All these things validated two things for me…. Yes, it’s a crazy world we live in but NO, I will not live in fear. With all the violence happening everywhere, you could easily convince yourself never to leave your own home. Granted, there are some areas I will definitely stay away from because of obvious danger. Safety is my first priority. But I won’t stop my life because of what could be lurking around the corner.
American TV stations with their 24-hour news can be alarmist. It’s the same news cycled over and over and it leaves so many of us feeling vulnerable. I know, this is pretty ironic coming from someone whose career is based on reporting the news.
Here’s what I know for sure. If I hadn’t gone to France, I wouldn’t have experienced the look on my daughter’s faces when they saw the city of lights for the first time. Or my 17-year old’s reaction when she got to see her favorite impressionist painting at the Musee’ d Orsay. France was an amazing experience my girls and I will never forget. Did I put us in danger? I don’t think so.
I learned a great lesson while watching the French. Life is short, you have to live it. That’s exactly what I plan to do. I won’t let the fear of “what if” stop me from exploring the world and making incredible memories with my family.
Have you ever cancelled a vacation because of safety concerns? Will you let terrorism stop you from traveling? Let me know your thoughts.