The alerts, via buzzing text messages or emails, come way too frequently. The instinct shared by so many of us each morning is to reflexively look at our phones before we step one foot out of bed, before we even turn the lights on. This morning the first message I saw:
"CBSNY: At least 13 killed in explosions at Brussels airport, metro."
In that short message, the aftermath of another terrorist attack was brought into my family’s home in New York City. The TV goes on, flickering images of twisted metal undoubtedly obscuring the bodies of innocent commuters caught up in the attack, a painful broadcast seen worldwide. Then begins the wait for the slow but certain increase in the toll of those murdered and injured.
How many hundreds or thousands of messages to friends or loved ones were sent by those simply going to work or arriving at the airport right before the literal instant in which they were blown apart? Plans for meeting friends or colleagues for lunch, plans for the next days or weeks or months, ripped away. Families and loved ones never to be the same again. The injured to carry the physical scars for the rest of their lives. In parallel, there are those who are actually celebrating the "success" of this brutal attack. The fact that this notion is not unfathomable, is itself, a terrible reflection on what humanity has suffered through.
The morning routine in my home includes saying goodbye to my middle-school age son. This is the first year he has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking the subway by himself to school in lower Manhattan. This morning I had to decide what I should say as he was rushing out the door to the 1 train at Canal Street. Undoubtedly, I knew that my saying anything or not about Brussels wouldn’t change him or his classmates from hearing the news. As President of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, I do believe deep in my heart that we have a responsibility, a duty, to educate generations about the real world we live in that has this type of terror in it—and also equally as importantly, to express how we as a global community come together with love and limitless compassion in the ensuing aftermath.
Well, what did I do this morning? I remembered the first subway rides that I took living in Manhattan after 9/11. Memories of packed trains, of suspicion. The moments of internal panic and the horror of what unfolded in the heart of this city and its Twin Towers. Simply put, I remember being scared.
No part of me this morning had a safety concern for the city’s subways, we are blessed with the deeply committed and battle-tested NYPD and PAPD. This morning, I just wanted to delay, for at least one more subway ride, having my son sit on his daily subway commute to school thinking about what has happened and the certain and dreadful anxiety that comes with it.
By 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels