Sometimes this grim fact hits me: The world is not a safe place.
I don’t normally watch or read the news. It usually just depresses the hell out of me so I avoid it. I suppose that’s an ostrich way of dealing with life but sometimes a person can only take so much bad news, you know?
But over the weekend I read about Meredith Emerson and Shannon Harps. It’s not unusual to hear about people being murdered or going missing. Maybe it takes a certain combination of timing and awareness for such horrible tragedies to pierce one’s safety bubble, to strike such a deep cord in oneself that the reverberations just keep resounding.
I just cannot stop thinking about either of them.
Meredith Emerson went hiking on New Year’s Day and has not yet been found but authorities say that the outlook for finding her alive is bleak. Five days after her disappearance on a hiking trail, they’ve only found bloody fleece tops and her ID and wallet in a dumpster and her dog, Ella, wandering a parking lot. A man, Gary Michael Hilton, has been arrested as the primary suspect. He was the last person seen with her though Meredith didn’t know him. Her family has been up for days, sleeplessly trying to find her.
Shannon Harps lived less than 6 blocks from me. She was stabbed to death in front of her newly purchased condo on New Year’s Eve around 7pm. The 31 year old Sierra Club worker was coming home from the store (the same store I shop at weekly), about to get ready to head out to a New Year’s Eve party. Neighbors heard her screams but by the time the police showed up, her attacker was gone. Shortly later she was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Her assailant is still at large.
I can’t stop asking WHY. Why did this happen?
I taught self-defense to women for almost ten years while I lived in Santa Cruz. I saw women come to my classes electric with fear and feeling powerless to protect themselves. I watched them transform- shedding trepidation and finding their voice, their inherent fierceness, their righteous strength. I know they left feeling stronger than when they came but all the strikes, kicks, yells and release maneuvers can’t keep them entirely and 100% safe. I get that it’s better than nothing but still. . . when I hear about attacks like the ones Meredith and Shannon faced I wonder. . . can we ever really protect ourselves?
And that question simultaneously royally pisses me off and makes me very afraid.
For all my years of training and teaching, I am not immune to fear. I might possess a fierce yell or powerful kick and palm strike. I might know how to flip someone off of me who has pinned me to the ground or walk assertively and be aware of my surroundings. I might be a total fucking bad ass and yet, I could be Shannon or Meredith. Because horrible things happen every day. Horrible things that have no explanation, yet someone is dead.
Now, walking the 7 blocks to The Fella’s apartment doesn’t seem like a very good idea anymore. Even as I got out of the car tonight and The Fella drove off, with only 10 steps to my front door, I felt that heightened awareness prick my senses. I felt the fear ignite me as I quickly made my way to the porch, the key already out in my hand.
We shouldn’t have to live like this.