Mark Hammer

Why wouldn’t you feel safe? If anyone wanted to do harm, in every city every day there are literally thousands of opportunities where people gather in largely unproctored or unsecured fashion. Multiply those hundreds of thousands of opportunities, across the nation, by the number of days in a year, and the number of years, and now divide 1 by that number, and calculate the odds. I’d be more afraid of driving home at the end of the day if I were you.

One of the quirks of human cognition is that frequency-of-occurrence is logged in rather indiscriminate fashion at an unconscious level. So when people are glued to the news, and the same footage of a terrible event is repeated endlessly for hours and days on end, we may “know”, at a conscious level, that it is one rather rare event, but at an unconscious level, we are given to logging it as something that “happens a LOT”. If you listen to your partner rave about the same restaurant to many of your friends, you’ll log it as the restaurant being immensely popular, even though it is one solitary opinion. This is, of course, why folks who watch a lot of TV are known to overestimate the incidence of crime in their area: the same few news events, repeated, FEEL like a frequently-occurring category of events.

At the same time, it is entirely understandable that when an event like Monday’s is so rare and novel for younger persons (older individuals having likely experienced more traumatic events over the course of their lives), they will want to know and learn as much about it as they can. It will rivet their attention, as anything new and emotionally-laden should. But within the context of the contemporary 24hr news cycle, that solitary event will consume the airwaves and bandwidth, and leave folks like yourself with the unshakeable deep-seated feeling that it is an event highly likely to reoccur, and elicit fear as a result.

I’m not diminishing the seriousness one iota, just drawing attention to the manner in which normal human cognition, when paired up with media that don’t feel any obligation to be mindful of such things, plays tricks on one’s thinking and reasoning.

So, you’re safe. The person/s who did it…not so much.

Over forty years ago, when I was in junior college, martial law was declared and my city was locked down after the British High Commissioner and a provincial cabinet minister were kidnapped, the latter being murdered and found in a car trunk ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Crisis ). This had been preceded a few years earlier by a rash of mailbox bombings in the same city by the same political extremist group. There were tanks and jeeps patrolling the streets downtown, and soldiers with machine guns at the entrance to every subway station. A number of my classmates and instructors went into hiding because all sorts of folks were being arrested and detained. Pretty dramatic stuff. But we had no internet, no cellphones, no Twitter, no Facebook, no cable news, and very little media coverage apart from the 6PM and 11PM news, and newspaper. Nothing was being suppressed; we just weren’t drowning in the stuff. We treated it seriously, but we went to school, came home, went shopping, went out, and lived our lives normally, with very little effort, and no shudders of fear after, because it wasn’t drilled into our heads in a way that made us feel it could happen again at any moment on any day.