They say there are two kinds of people in the world – those who see danger and run away. And those who run towards it. When I was working as a journalist, this was kind of like the litmus test to see if the job you were doing was your true calling (if you want to be good at it, it has to be) or just a paycheck.
I always wished I’d be brave enough to run towards danger if I ever had to. But the truth is I’d probably be too scared. Luckily, I was working in Helsinki and the most danger I ever had to face was getting elbowed by another journalist as we fought to be first to grab copies of a Nokia quarterly report.
Then came September 11, 2001. As you and I talked on the phone while the second plane hit the Trade Center, the only thing I could think of was how quickly I could book a flight to New York. Had I been in downtown Manhattan when it happened, I’m sure I would have run away. But sitting in my apartment in Helsinki watching hell break loose in my home and around the people I love most in the world, all I wanted to do was put my sneakers on and start running.
That was almost 13 years ago. What’s happening today in Syria and Iraq makes it feel like yesterday.
When you’re born and raised in New York City, it’s impossible to read about what’s going on without wondering what it could mean for “high-value targets” like New York.
If you believe what all the experts seem to be saying, what’s happening right now is literally the worst news in the world. ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, seems to be seizing Iraqi and Syrian cities with the ease with which my 3-year-old seizes toys from her baby brother. And they’ve been freeing tons of jihadist prisoners and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars along the way.
Sounds pretty scary. Terrifying, actually. But I guess instilling terror is really the point.
Iraq and Syria might seem like they’re a world away, but really they’re both just a flight away from New York, Helsinki (listen guys, it’s June 17th and hailing out today, so if I were you I’d pick someplace else) and the rest of the west.
And it’s a fact that ISIS, which is too extreme even for al Qaeda, is the most popular group amongst western fighters looking to join the jihad. It’s estimated that around 3,000 Europeans and hundreds of Americans have gone to Syria to fight and train. I’m sure Syria is very nice and the food is probably delicious, so I hope they stay and enjoy themselves. But I fear they’ll come “home”.
It’s funny, but whenever I express the fear that something terrible might happen in New York again, people here tend to either a) look at me like I’m on acid, or b) remind me that plenty more innocent civilian lives have been lost in other places in the world than the 3,000 who died on 9/11. That’s true. And that’s terrible.
But if sending God only knows how many troops, tanks and planes to run towards the danger in Iraq and Syria puts the people and city I love so much in more danger, it’s just not worth it. Nothing is. I guess that makes me a coward. And a Democrat.
(I) Love (New York),