Throughout the lives of our children, we have to caution them against real threats -- strangers, crossing streets, drugs and alcohol -- in the hope that we can keep them safe. As my daughter nears her 23rd birthday and graduation from college, I had begun to cut back on the warnings. But now the warnings are coming in fast and loud, and not from me.
What must she and her friends think when they see nine innocent college students mowed down in Oregon? How do they feel when it starts to appear that Americans value their firearms more than students? What is their anxiety level as terrorism, home-grown and global, seems to surround them?
This all became too close when I saw that the FBI and ATF had issued a "non-specific threat of violence against a university near Philadelphia" to take place today. My daughter has three classes at Drexel University today. Amid the buzz she was hearing, she sent me an email asking what she should do. It was a good question: How to tell her that there is danger everywhere, all around us, and there is so little we can do to protect ourselves? How to explain a nation obsessed with the Second Amendment even in the face of growing evidence that it is long past its expiration date? How to tell her that sometimes going to class is an act of incredible bravery? And how to ignore the voice in my head urging her to get on the next train back to Virginia?
In the end, I texted, If it were really credible, Drexel would cancel classes. Go.
She is in class as I write this. Only four other students and the professor showed up. Her education is not currently being interrupted by bullies, or madmen, or pranksters. But the fear that she and her classmates are surely facing is real and will color their lives as they become the leaders of the next generation. And the question that will linger for all of them haunts me: Why didn't we do more to protect them when they were young?