The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 rewired my five-year-old mind. It’s not so much a visual image that I remember, but the description of the charred glove found at the scene. From then on, I was horrified by anything to do with outer space. Though I was a confirmed bookworm with varied tastes, for at least eight or nine years afterward I religiously avoided the little rocket sticker that designated science fiction at our library.
I had a similar experience a few months ago. We had been searching for a new business supplier and considering a factory in Pakistan. It seemed to me that it would be an interesting place to visit. I’ve sidestepped a fair number of State Department travel advisories, and never thought much of it. In fact, I arrived home from a study abroad in Syria just two months before September 11th.
Pakistan’s a fairly short jaunt from Italy. It would be nice to be closer than the 14-hour flight it was to the Philippines. Our problems were solved. Then someone blew up the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan. I was unnerved. I couldn’t stop talking about it. I couldn’t believe we had been planning a trip there. I couldn’t think how I had decided it would be alright to take my children there.
Our next supplier option was in India. I was worried more about the drinking water and disease control than terrorists there. But then they had a horrific terrorist attack that lingered in the borders of my unconscious even as I tacitly avoided reading about it.
I hadn’t realized what a worrier I’d turned into about foreign travel until we drove down to Mexico yesterday. Just Mexico! It’s hardly Afghanistan, and there was no reason for worry. We were only going for the morning to a quiet little manufacturing town a little south of Tecate. Of course it didn’t help that Tijuana set some kind of record last month for drug murders. And I’m afraid my anxiety was unconsciously fed by the camouflage backpacks and bullet-proof vests they just happened to be making at the apparel factory we visited. But I was downright jittery.
I’m not sure what to do about this whole thing. Whatever happened to the carefree girl who laughed when her mother’s friends were worried about her plans to travel to Jerusalem in the middle of the Intifada? Is this a sign of old age? Will I next suddenly acquire a terrible fear of flying? Or do I just need to blog about it till the anxiety evaporates?
Oh well . . . off to fill those stockings.