On a recent trip to Paris — sitting beneath the Eiffel Tower, waiting to watch it sparkle at midnight — I started to panic. Each time someone laughed a bit too loud or stood up a bit too quickly, I felt my heart rate spike. What if, what if, what if. . . what if this is the next attack?
The 24-hour news circuit has had no shortage of terrifying reports lately. Instead of Nutty, the squirrel that can waterski, it's terrorist attack after terrorist attack: at the Louvre, a street in Stockholm, on the Champs-Élysées. A concert in Manchester, the London Bridge, Finsbury Park. And consequently, before each weekend trip I've taken in France this Summer, my family and friends have asked, "But . . . is it safe?"
It's a question I am not quite sure how to answer — because, to be frank, I have no way to know. I usually reply with something like, "As safe as any city," and go back to deciding whether I should stock up on macarons at Ladurée or Pierre Hermé.
On this last trip to Paris, however, that fear started to creep into my brain. The ifs and buts began to take over, pulling me out of an otherwise magical moment and filling me with dread. But I — we — can't let that happen. We can't let that fear win. We can't let them win.
The entire goal of terrorism is to disrupt our daily lives and keep us from feeling comfortable. But, while it is absolutely important to be aware of recent events, as well as your surroundings, we have to remember that the odds are in our favor here.
According to writer and risk analyst Tom Pollock, the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack in France last year were "less than two ten-thousandths of one percent." To put that in perspective, the chances of being injured on a children's amusement park ride in the US were around 7.9 percent in 2015 (as reported by the National Security Council).
Theoretically, every time you leave your house, something could happen. Lightning strikes, car accidents, knife-wielding clowns. Heck, cyberhackers can even get you from your computer. I'm not saying any of this to induce fear — I am saying it because, well, it's the truth. And yet, we continue to dance in the rain, drive to the grocery store, and scroll through pages upon pages of puppy pictures and Kardashian memes. We continue to live our lives, checking items off of our to-do lists and taking time for the activities we enjoy. Why would we let that minuscule 0.0002 percent cloud our adventures and limit our wanderlust?
Simply put: we shouldn't. And in moments of panic, I have found comfort and calm in the silliest things, from the lyrics of Taylor Swift's "Fearless" or Beyoncé's "Run the World" to Emily Dickinson poetry to asking myself, "What would Wonder Woman do?" Well, Wonder Woman sure as hell wouldn't let a little anxiety about the bad guys ruin her night . . .
So stay alert, and stay vigilant. If you see something, say something. But if everyone around you is laughing and drinking Champagne from plastic cups on the Champ de Mars, it's all right to take a deep breath, remind yourself that we run the world, not them, and just watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle.