The sky was growing dark, and despite the danger of flying pests joining me for a Dunkelweizen and a couple chapters of Harry Potter Book 6, I had flung open the windows to combat the heat radiating from a TV, which had probably been playing PS4 games all weekend.
When you hear a loud ‘pop’ in our town, you assume it’s kids shooting off a firework in the nearby park, but you never think it could be someone who strapped explosives to himself.
The ambulances roared down our street, while the helicopter looked over our little city from above, but I didn’t think too much of it — after all, I live on a busy street. Maybe there was a bar fight, or a man hunt underway. I closed my windows, blocking out the voices on the street, and went to bed.
The text messages started around one-thirty, but my eyes were too groggy to read them. At five, when the dog eagerly woke me for his walk, I began to read notes from people I’ve not heard from in a long time:
“Are you okay? They asked.
“Praying you’re safe!” They said.
“What the hell?” I thought, “I don’t live in Munich.”
With the dog nudging me and salivating all over the bedspread, I got a real-time message from a friend. I shoved the dog aside long enough to see the news on facebook: “Bomb Explodes in Ansbach.”
Last week, people were attacked on a train in Würzburg. The attacker lived in a town I frequently ran through. The path from Ochsenfurt to Würzburg is ideal for marathon training: a peaceful track along the river, with vineyards rising up on both sides. It is eight miles of willows, swans and picnics.
And then there’s Munich. A beautiful city, through which my son and his class had toured just a few days before the horrific shootings. One of his goals was to go to McDonald’s, since it’s a rare treat for us. How many people were there that day, excited to be out for a treat too?
My heart breaks for this place a dear friend of mine nicknamed “Neverland.”
And our hearts should break, not just for Germany, but for a world in which people grow accustomed to bombings and shootings. Some people walk through blood and destruction on a daily basis — they play in its rubble as children. Some choose to let it freeze their souls, while others recognize the warmth of life.
My first instinct is to sail away to some corner of the world and close my family off from everyone. But the fact is, bad things happen everywhere. You can get cancer, or fall down the stairs in your own home. You can be stabbed on a train in any city anywhere. You can be the target of a mentally unstable person, whether he wields a knife or a gun or terrifying words over you.
There is no control measure that can combat the rare psychopath.
But we can’t walk in fear. Because when you walk in fear, the psychos win.
I refuse to cut off all heart and emotion out of fear: to shield myself to the exclusion of other human beings. I lived too many years in such isolation to do that again. It is good to feel, even when your heart breaks.
I have no big solutions that can fix the world, but I can live my life to its fullest, relishing the good moments, and using the bad moments to give more depth to my soul and a broader perspective to my mind.
Do I worry for my children? Of course, but it’s a paradox: by isolating them from the world, they wouldn’t truly be living.
So, we take precautions. We stay alert and aware. But we live. We keep following our dreams. We travel and go to concerts and have a cappuccino in the plaza. We keep enjoying the good moments of our little lives. And hopefully, we use our talents to spread positivity in a world that desperately needs it.
You can accuse me of being idealistic: a modern — day Pollyanna, spreading the sickly sweet message of love while the world crumbles, but that's okay. I would rather live with hope than be suffocated by fear.
I can’t fix the world, but I can raise my kids to live and feel and walk forward in a positive direction.