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Tuesday, December 18 News

Lawlor / 2018

A few weeks ago, this year was put in stark perspective. My wife and I were going out to a party when we got a call from one of our daughters —she started off with “we’re both OK,”— but went on to say there had been a shooting at the concert they’d been attending in Central Park. They both were quite shaken up and were going home. They said they would call back in a little while once they got to our younger daughter’s apartment in the Bronx.

I finally went into the party after checking the radio (both AM and FM radio) and hearing nothing about the shooting. Inside, I floated from room to room still thinking about the anxiety heard in my daughter’s voice. I started to regain my composure around the dessert table. Brownies have always helped me to relax and focus. I then overheard two people talk about the Mr. Rogers movie, then just as I finally understood that there was a new movie about Mr. Rogers life, they jumped to the Justice Kavanaugh hearings. And what Mr. Rogers, if he were still alive, would say about the hearings. 2018 .

I went back outside to the car to hear anything about the shooting, nothing on all-news radio. Just the hearings and traffic and weather together. I figured my daughters were safely back and I could call again. I talked to the oldest. She was still shaken up, but she now knew what the radio stations weren’t telling me— it was a false alarm. From her perspective, it went something like this:

They were at The Global Citizen Festival in Central Park when, after Cardi B performed (but before Janet Jackson, who was headlining), either a fight broke out or one of the barricades fell over and made a loud “gunshot” noise. Concert goers then heard a trampling of plastic water bottles that were on the ground. These apparently make a loud popping noise when stepped on, and this concert was almost one year after the mass shooting at the Las Vegas concert. I guess it wasn’t a big leap for people to start thinking “shooter”. 2018

My daughters saw a moving wall of people running at them fast, and then they heard the word “shooter. They grabbed their friends and started running holding hands. At one point, they lost the grip of one of their friends, but kept moving. A police officer told them to just keep running. A police barricade fell on my youngest daughter’s foot, she was wearing sandals, but she just kept going. It started to bleed, but they kept running. They really thought they were running for their lives. One of their friends then turned on his phone (he has a popular You Tube channel) and started to record their running for their lives for the channel. 2018

I asked my daughters what was their escape plan when they sat down at the concert. Over the years I have tried to instill a healthy paranoia about crowds into them. They both said they had not even thought of an exit strategy before they sat down on the Central Park Lawn. That will not happen again. 2018

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I do not like concerts, I avoid them if I can. I had my great loathing of crowds passed down to me by my aunt Rita Lavelle Miller, who saw disaster around every corner, and that was 40 years ago. I gave my oldest daughter the middle name of “Rita” but the paranoia DNA didn’t transfer. If I must be in a crowd, I always park a fair distance away and I back into the parking spot, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. My Aunt Rita would sometimes take us on trips and in each instance she would make us check out, then walk out and rehearse our route to the emergency exits before we could settle in for the night.

Rita had fears of pickpockets, fires, speeding tickets, standing on folding chairs, and accidentally swallowing a bee that flew in your beer. She was also convinced that we would all break our necks by running while wearing flip flop sandals. 1978

A week after the concert my daughters went to another large event. This time they memorized the exits, arranged a meeting point if they got separated and were wearing shoes with sturdy backs. 2018

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His column appears every other Friday. He can be reached by email at Tlawlor@mcommunications.com.

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