New York erupted on October 31st. There were ghouls on the street, chased by devils and wounded people sporting gashed eyebrows and bleeding lips. Witches flew past on brooms and skeletons walked out of closets. Meanwhile, shops and homes all over the city stocked up on tricks and treats.
But Halloween 2017 was not just any other Halloween day.
I was safely tucked away in my midtown office when a ping on my phone distracted me. A friend in India, awake at midnight, had seen a news alert on BBC and checked in with me. My city, yet again, faced a terror attack. New York is not new to terror attacks. The city reeled under the 9/11 attack. An event that dragged the US into the war against terror. 9/11 prepared New York for future attacks. Many have been tried and foiled The most recent being the Chelsea pressure cooker bomber.
But this time the man succeeded.
Of the eight dead, five of them were Argentine tourists having a reunion in New York. A poignant video of their last moments posted by the lone survivor of their group is heart-wrenching. Another victim was from Belgium. Innocent visitors caught in a holy war. A further eleven wounded, Luckily, a gutsy cop apprehended the terrorist.
My Facebook feed erupted alternatively with people posting pictures of their Halloween costumes and others marking themselves safe in the city. It felt surreal. Alternative realities.
Meanwhile our great nation’s leader shot off an instant tweet claiming an attack by a sick and deranged person. What sickened me: his all caps quote saying, ‘NOT IN THE USA.’ What does he mean by that? Terror cannot take place in this great country? He won’t allow it to happen? Terror can take place all around the world but certainly not in the US? But it happened. And has been happening over and over and over again.
Sayfullo Saipov of Uzbeki origin and lately from Paterson, NJ has stoked Trump’s ire. The President recently signed an executive order lifting the moratorium on the extreme vetting program. The attack led to a Trump tweet tirade not to ‘allow ISIS to return, or enter the country after having defeated them in the Middle East and elsewhere’. He also tweeted, ‘Enough’. He is right in his statement. But an anti-Islamic agenda hardly serves the purpose. Muslims in the US are at risk and while some have turned rogue, the majority of them are law abiding citizens fighting for their honor.
Saipov was married with three kids. His neighbours in Florida had no reason to suspect he was a terrorist. Handwritten notes discovered in his truck indicated he was acting on behalf of ISIS. He was possibly radicalized after coming to the US. Saipov was also an Uber driver. Makes one wonder what their background check criteria is. Basically, it could be anyone. The person sitting next to you in the subway, someone travelling with you in the elevator, a pedestrian on the street. I know of people scared to come to the US. But is there any place in the world that’s safe. Years ago, German Bakery in Pune was attacked. I lived round the corner. Was I safe there? Am I safe here?
Sometimes I wonder how to respond. Should we be politically correct and constantly reiterate not all Muslims are terrorists? Or do we just call a spade a spade and rant and rave against all Muslims? After all its Muslims today, it was the IRA in the 1980’s, the Sikhs had their time and it was Christians during the crusades. Nothing really changes except the perpetrators.
When we see the dead kids, mangled bikes, a fear psychosis, what then? Do we listen to the head or the heart?
My 4-year-old nieces walk that route every day. They were holed up in their school basement during the entire saga. Their innocent minds thought they were having an extended Halloween party meanwhile their mum needed to be located while she was out and about in Tribeca. For my family, it was all’s well that ends well. But that was not the case for the innocent victims just going about their daily routine.
That’s when the heart refuses to play ball. Why is the fight being brought to innocent folks? When will this stop? But my brain kicks into gear making me numb. Desensitized? And at night, walking down seventh avenue, a sea of activity. New Yorkers came out in full force for the 44th Village Halloween parade. Scared but determined. Resilient and strong. New Yorkers sent out a message loud and clear. Terrorism would not deter them. Streets crawled with policemen watching over them.
Life will go on. It has to. Terror or not.