I nearly lost my mother to terrorism.
I didn’t, but it was close.
I was 7 at the time, and didn’t understand it. It took me years before I really thought about it in terms of “Terrorism.” For a long time, I thought about it as something cool: a big national news story my mom had a connection to.
The year was 1996, in Atlanta, Georgia. The terrorist was a man named Eric.
He wasn’t caught until 2003, six years later, and he bombed three other places after the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
Eric was (still is I imagine) a radical Christian. He didn’t like what he called “global socialism,” gay people, or abortion that much. He went on to bomb a lesbian bar and two abortion clinics after Centennial Olympic Park.
As a socialist leaning pro-choice bisexual atheist, I don’t think Eric would like me very much.
Fortunately, at the centennial park, a security guard spotted the explosives and started evacuating before they went off. Only one person died in the bombing (and another in the aftermath), but more than a hundred were injured. .
My mother was there, in the exact spot, less than a half hour before the explosion.
She had come down for the Olympics with a friend, and they may have stayed in the area had they not been worn out by travel and long lines.
It wasn’t until the next morning, turning on the news in her hotel room, that she realized something had happened.
When I speak with her about it today, she laughs it off.
“20 minutes or 20 years; it makes no difference,” she told me. As far as she was concerned, it didn’t matter how close it had come, she had missed it. She too, thought of it merely as a news story she had a loose connection to.
Ever since I put in in that context though, as an act of terrorism, I can’t help but think how close my siblings and I came to growing up without a mother.
But for half and hour and a diligent security guard…
So when people ask me how I can be ok accepting Syrian refugees into the country; or tries to tell me that Islam is an inherently violent religion; or any other bullshit based on the idea that the terrorists I should be afraid of are brown people half a world away, I want to tell them to shut their fucking mouths.
The terrorist who nearly ruined my family was a white guy from the States, killing in the name of Christ.