Last week, as a man was stepping off a New York subway car after filling it with smoke and unleashing a barrage of bullets, I was stepping on a subway car a few miles away.
Oblivious to the chaos and terror happening nearby, I settled into my seat, put in my earbuds and queued up an audio book. I was riding from my 27-year-old son’s Brooklyn apartment to Union Square, where he would head to a medical facility for a daily round of radiation as he fights lymphoma.
My plans were more pleasant — visit a bakery for rugelach and a cup of tea and then leisurely browse through Barnes and Nobles’ flagship Union Square store.
About the time I made it to the third floor of the store, my phone began to buzz as texts from family members began to pour in.
“You guys good?”
“Did you take an Uber today?”
Odd, I thought, but considering my son is undergoing cancer treatments, not crazy.
I responded with, “We are good.”
Finally my dad says, “You are aware of the people shot on the subway and some sort of explosive devices found?”
My response was a simple, “Nope.” I was still oblivious.
Focused on the trials in my own world and looking forward to the pleasant diversion of good food and an hour in a book store, I had no idea that but for the gunman’s choice of a different subway train, the last hour of my life— and maybe my entire future — could have been altered drastically.
When I exited the bookstore, the landscape had changed.
There was now a visible police presence as the manhunt was on for the gunman who was responsible for shooting 10 people and the injuries of at least another dozen people. On the subway ride home, people were more alert, looking for anything that appeared suspicious.
It’s easy to get focused on what is happening in our own lives, in the here and now, and remain oblivious to the suffering and tragedies surrounding us.
Sometimes life hands us something to shake us up a bit — a close call, a health scare, a near tragedy, a war on another shore.
As we are thankful that we have escaped whatever that earthquake was, let it be a reminder that others were not so fortunate, a prompting to resist retreating into an oblivious state and a prod to look for ways to make a difference in the world.