Far From the Maddening Crowds

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Mostly Musings / Woodstock

“Honey, why did they do it?”

I was having lunch with my 95-year-old mother on Nov. 14. Because of her dementia and poor hearing, she misses a lot of what is going on around her. But that day she caught a bit of conversation from the booth behind her as a couple talked about the Paris attacks.

When she asked what they were talking about, I gave her the shortest, least threatening explanation I could. But it wasn’t enough to satisfy her.

“Honey, why did they do it?” she asked.

“Mom, I wish I could tell you. But I can’t. I just don’t know.”

She asked again—Honey, why did they do it?— three times in all, before allowing me to change the subject.


It has been a terrible month of terrorism in Paris, in Mali, in Beirut, and God-knows-where-else.

It has been a terrible month of police brutality and racism and protests in Chicago.

During this terrible month, we have been warned to think twice about overseas travel, to report anything that seems out of place, to avoid large crowds.

The world has become a hostile, dangerous, frightening place. Even more so than it already was.


And then there is Woodstock, Illinois, the antithesis of Paris or Beirut or Chicago. Thank God.

On Friday night, a crowd of 2,000 people assembled in our downtown. The reason? The lighting of our town square for Christmas.


Photo by Ken Farver for The Woodstock Independent

All I can think of is how blessed we are. We can still stand shoulder to shoulder in a throng of people—many of them strangers—and still feel blissfully safe.

Is this a false sense of security? I suppose it could be.

So far, most of the tragedies have come in large cities or unstable foreign countries. Yet we have been told that no place is immune to terrorism’s violence and fear.

And I guess I mostly believe that— intellectually. I don’t really accept it emotionally. All I know is, I don’t want to live long enough to lose my sense of safety here at home.

 That freedom from fear is denied to countless people around the world. It is a blessing I try not to take for granted any more.

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