My hometown in Pennsylvania has a population is just shy of 5,500 people. We have one grocery store, one gas station and a small pizza place. A tiny, family-owned pharmacy sits on Main Street, 10 yards from the post office and the local bar, the Uptown Tavern.
Needless to say, living in D.C. has been quite an adjustment. The large crowds of tourists and the high-profile public officials draw armed guards, sometimes making D.C. feel like a police state. My parents like to comfort me by saying that I live in the safest city in the country, but sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.
After the bombings at the Boston Marathon last week, that feeling of protection is eroding.
Between aggressive rhetoric from North Korea, the slew of letters tainted with ricin sent to a number of public officials and the increased security presence in the White House and in the Hart Senate office building, it feels like nearly everyone has been on edge.
Now, I’m constantly feeling anxious. I can’t take my eyes off of backpacks and suitcases in the Metro. I miss the cozy streets of my small hometown.
I don’t regret moving to D.C., but these events make the adjustment more difficult. Walking around the District the past few days, I’ve tried to avoid large crowds and I’ve shied away from leaving the Foggy Bottom Campus. The move to the big city has not been as seamless as I hoped it would be.
Terror threats, of course, aren’t new. But for the first time for today’s college students, they seem real.
As a second grader, I remember watching CNN footage of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. At the time, I couldn’t fully comprehend what I was watching. I remember thinking that the CNN footage looked like a movie, and that it probably wasn’t real. I understood that something bad had happened, but the gravity of the situation was left to the adults.
In that respect, I feel lucky. But at the same time, many of us in the U.S. have never experienced a lifestyle in which we are threatened with death or injury so frequently.
We cope with this fear in many different ways. I have done so by watching and consuming as much news as I can. And when I’m confused or afraid, I feel as though I need to hash out the details with someone.
However, I’ve realized that the only way to overcome this sense of anxiety is to keep living. No amount of police officers can make us feel truly secure. The only way to fight the fear is to acknowledge its presence and move on.
Sarah Blugis is a freshman majoring in political communication.