When fear creeps into our lives

Brian and I were in Los Angeles this weekend for the Opening of the new Rattlestick production of “Slipping,” by Daniel Talbott. We landed around 4:30 p.m. on Monday at JFK International Airport. As soon as we turned on our phones, our newsfeed was inundated with images of the aftereffects of the Marathon bombing.

I panicked. I, and several other passengers, immediately started texting friends and relatives that live in Boston.

While nervously waiting for replies, I started to think about Christina, the girl I went backpacking with in Southeast Asia last summer.

Christina lives in South Korea with her boyfriend, Song. They were living in Australia for awhile, but decided to moved back to his hometown. Unfortunately it was right after Kim Jong-il conducted an underground nuclear test, the third in seven years.

I have been worried sick about her for the last few months. But especially last Tuesday when the North warned foreigners to evacuate the south to avoid being dragged into “thermonuclear war.” A spokeswoman for South Korea dismissed the warning, saying no one felt under threat. Christina felt the same. But that didn’t ease my concern.

While Brian hailed a cab – while still nervously waiting for my Boston friends to respond – I began thinking about Stephanie, my other close friend whom I visited in London last fall. Steph lives with her boyfriend Jorge in Knightsbridge, right in the heart of the city.

I remembered the terror I felt on the morning of Thursday, July 7, 2005, when bombs exploded on Underground trains between Aldgate and Liverpool Street stations, Russel Square and King’s Cross St. Pancras stations, and Edgward Road and Paddington stations. A double-decker bus at Tavistock Square was also destroyed. The bombs, which were detonated by four homegrown terrorist suicide bombers, killed 52 people and resulted in over 700 injuries.

I emailed Steph all that day: “Are you Ok? Where are you?”

She got back to me a few days later. “I’m safe,” she wrote. “Just rattled.”

“I wish they lived somewhere else,” I told Brian on the taxi ride back to Manhattan.

“Don’t you think they worry about you?” he said. “You’re in the hotbed too.”

I thought back to when I first moved to New York. I was waitressing at a restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Social Bar & Grill. I was working a few blocks away when an attempted bombing took place around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, 2010 in Times Square. When I overheard patrons talking about the situation around 9 p.m., I told the manager on duty I wanted to go home (I lived in Queens at the time).

He was taken aback. “You can’t go,” he said. I was the only waitress on duty and the bar was packed. I left anyway, and shortly after found a new job.

The planned terrorist attack was foiled when two street vendors discovered the car bomb and alerted the NYPD. The bomb had been ignited, but was disarmed before it caused any casualties.

Two days later federal agents arrested Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistan-born resident of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who had become a U.S. citizen in April 2009. He was arrested and admitted to the attempted car bomb, saying that he had been trained at a Pakistani terrorist training camp. Shahzad said his intent had been “to kill Americans.”

More than a dozen people were arrested in connection with the plot.

Luckily none of my friends in Boston were hurt. Christina says she and Song are safe. Stephanie’s concerned, but said she can’t let her fear dictate her life.

And she’s right. But the fact is still unsettling: how vulnerable we all are.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to


or view her Web site at www.SarahTSchwab.com