I remember the thrill of listening to the radio as a child on snowy days in New England to hear if my school would be closed. Today, my 5 and 6 year olds learned of their very first school closing, but it had nothing to do with the weather. The cause: an email that the Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent considered a “credible threat” of violence by someone claiming to be a jihadist.
So this is now the new normal for my children? Force-fed a history lesson about the rise of a movement so incomprehensible and malevolent that school is no longer a safe haven?
The massive closure of more than 900 schools run by the nation’s second-largest school district with more than 700,000 students came less than two weeks after 14 people were gunned down in nearby San Bernardino. Everyone in L.A. and surrounding communities have been on edge since that horrific and shocking incident, which became the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. I even know someone who knew one of the victims. It’s terrifying to live this way.
When I first learned of the school closures, I was unnerved. My kids were happy. They had no clue what was happening. But then as I absorbed all the news reports pouring in over the next few hours suggesting it may have been a hoax, I had a somewhat of a different reaction.
Are we taking questionable threats far too seriously? Are we way too over-protective? Have we lost our common sense and ability to reason things out?
There were three sticking points that made me scratch my head and ask these questions.
To wit: Allah was spelled with a lower-case ‘a,’ there were no Koranic verses or references to the life of Muhammad and there was a pornographic term used to reference a male body part. Experts say this simply isn’t the work of a devout Muslim or extremist.
I realize this was a tough call and that school officials, law enforcement and the intelligence community would have been excoriated if schools remained open and something terrible happened. But New York City officials received pretty much the same e-mail threat, which was dismissed by the mayor as “so generic, so outlandish” that it didn’t warrant school closings.
How could there be such a substantially different reaction from New York to Los Angeles? I wonder if the L.A. schools would have been closed if the terror in San Bernardino never took place.
It’s hard to say, but this much is true: We may have reached a tipping point in the ongoing War on Terror where such threats will always be a daily occurrence. That’s not the kind of world I envisioned for my kids. All we can do now is hope that there’s enough decency and humanity in the world to end this war without having to look over our shoulders for the remainder of our days.