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Last week I saw a young woman get attacked on the street, in what I always thought of as a really safe neighborhood, in broad daylight. As she walked past a supermarket, a man rushed at her and grabbed her waist and at her face. He didn’t try to steal her purse or anything or even take her anywhere. It was literally like he just had some split second impulse to grab someone. It made absolutely no sense.
The woman screamed and immediately three guys from inside the supermarket came rushing out, their price guns clattering to the ground as they tore the guy off of her (the D’Agostino Heroes?) One of them screamed at the man, “You will not touch her again! You will back off from her!” The man who had grabbed her looked like he didn’t even know what he had done. He looked so utterly confused, like he had no memory of what just happened. The three guys from the supermarket cornered him against the outside wall of the building while one of them called the police.
This whole scene shook me up a lot. I think of New York as a really safe city (or at least I did until last week when a friend sent me the New York Times 2003-2009 homicide map. Feast your obsessive brain on that!).
Since then I’ve been jumpy. I’ve been extra alert on the street, asking my friends if it’s safe to walk around certain areas at night. I take out my keys on the corner of the block before I get to my apartment. These are probably smart things to do anyway, but I’m acutely aware that the motivation behind all this isn’t awareness; it’s fear.
So much so that the other day when I was making lunch in my apartment in the afternoon, when I heard seven loud bangs from the roof I immediately thought it was gunshots. (Well what am I supposed to think? I’ve never actually seen or heard a gun shot in person. Have you?) So what did I do? I called 911. Only then did I think to call my super. Apparently it was just him – setting off firecrackers on the roof to scare the pigeons away. Not that this was a comforting response in itself, but it wasn’t what I had feared. I went outside and apologetically explained to the six cops that had already arrived that everything was okay. (As a side note, excellent response time NYPD).
There’s a fine line between awareness and paranoia. Got to rein it in.
And I’ve got to move out of this apartment…