Fear and Unknowing

It was just about eight o’clock on Saturday night (Feb 16) when the house – buried on three sides and constructed mostly of concrete – was rocked by a loud, dull bang.  Our first response to it made me realize how far removed from the dangers of the ‘real world’ our lifestyle has made us feel.  Less than twenty-four hours later, knowledge would make me realize how easily that illusion can be shattered.  The bang and the shattering are still putting all of my theories about fear and life to the test, as I suspect they will for days to come.

When the bang first interrupted our movie night, the Big Guy and I looked at each other, puzzled and wondering if we had heard the same thing or imagined something.  Thing1 quickly confirmed that we weren’t suffering from some form of group auditory senility when he poked his head out of his room and asked, “Did you hear that?!?  It sounded like a bomb!”

“it was not a bomb!”  We answered our twelve-year-old in unison.

“The old tree behind the house must have fallen,” I shouted, momentarily forgetting that there was no wind.

“There must have been a chimney fire,” suggested the Big Guy, and we both got up, got flashlights and went outside to investigate our theories.  Twenty minutes later, we were colder but no wiser and we headed back inside.  Fruitless phone calls were made to our nearest neighbors, and we soon settled back into movie night, assuming there was a reasonable explanation we just hadn’t considered.

I had almost forgotten the bang by the time my own little noise makers drove me to the relative peace of our local wifi hot spot, deli, and general store this afternoon.  I sat down with my computer and snack with the idea I would work.  I didn’t get my earbuds in fast enough, however, to avoid hearing a neighbor (anyone in a town of ~300 is considered a neighbor) mention the big bang from the night before.  

The owner of the establishment wisely chose not to join in any gossip or speculation, but our new companion was more than willing to share what he knew and thought he knew.  None of what he shared was comforting.  Still, the initial explanation – that a firearm had caused an explosion (how we didn’t know quite for sure) was half speculation and half fact, and I left a while later feeling concerned but not overly worried.

My concern turned to real worry very soon, however, when the Big Guy got a call and more information from a neighbor with reliable source.  To our horror we learned that someone across the way had managed to build a fertilizer bomb.  We learned that an investigation was and is underway, but little other information was available. 

The absence of information turned my worry to palpable fear. Even now as I write, thoughts of other bomb builders and their targets run through my mind.  My first thought was to keep my children home from school or any public activity until we hear more.  But, even as I struggle to find the line between common sense safety measures and parental paranoia, I am confronted by my own words and desire for progress.

Over the last few months and years I have struggled not to let my own encounter with a pair of armed robbers years ago control my or my family’s lives.  Countless times I have choked down my fear and forced myself to let my kids live their lives.  But tonight, wondering what the bomb builder was thinking or even planning, the line between lives half-lived in fear and those carefully guarded is pretty blurred.

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