July 18, 2019 | 74° F

NIETO-MUNOZ: Stay vigilant, fearless in wake of global terrorism

Opinions Columns: Views from the 39


On Tuesday, I woke up to three CNN notifications, four BBC News notifications and a BuzzFeed news notification on my phone at 8 a.m. local time. I saw there was an explosion somewhere in Belgium, but all the notifications were so vague because the news was so new. Eventually I got a notification that the explosion was in an airport — one person dead. I walked downstairs to have my espresso to find my host mother downstairs, who is always gone for work by the time I wake up. She had both the radio and television on, jumping between the two in the kitchen and living room — something that is pretty out of the norm in my homestay house. “Have you heard?” she asked me with horror in her eyes. “There was an attack in the airport in Brussels.”

I hate to say this, but I wasn’t shocked at this news. After the arrest of the Paris attacker and killings upon killings done by terrorist groups around the world between Paris, Ivory Coast and California, my first reaction was just kind of “… really? Again? When will the hatred stop?” Since my spring break started the following week, my host mother warned me to be careful in airports and big touristy areas, especially since half of my spring break will be spent in Paris. As the day went on, my friends and I went to get lunch and I realized the TV was on in the restaurant we ate in — something that isn’t normal either (of course, unless there’s a soccer game on). Breaking news was flashing on the screen with the words “death tolls expected to rise” and “bombing in metro” plastered in Italian, all eyes in the small ristorante glued to the screen with small, quiet chatter. The next time I had access to the Internet, I had a ton of emails ranging from Rutgers’ global studies program to a message from the CIEE program I’m in to the U.S. Department of State, all reminding me to be extra careful, be aware of my surroundings and to register every trip I take with a million different websites. It made me think: Should I fear traveling right now?

The answer to this is clearly, "no." If the last 20 years of my life have made anything clear to me, it’s that danger is everywhere, whether it’s a marathon in Boston, at work in California, a hotel in the Mumbai or an airport in Brussels, we can realistically always be in some sort of dangerous situation.

I’m not saying this to scare anyone, but to prove that we cannot put our lives on pause just because something might happen to us. Did Boston stop its annual marathon? Did people stop going to work in New York after 9/11? After mass shootings and police violence, do we stop roaming the streets? Do we lock ourselves in our house and eat canned food for however long we live for?

Of course not.

What is life if we allow fear to dictate our actions? As I’ve said in my previous columns, knowing the world around you can open up so many things, whether it’s meeting new people, experiencing amazing sights and a lot of learning and education. I feel as though it is an essential part of life to travel, to learn about the cultures around us and to be able to teach other people about who we are in hopes of leaving a mark on their lives.

In the case of traveling in the wake of these attacks, the best thing to do is what we’re told: Stay vigilant, tell people your plans and always follow your gut. Make informed decisions on where you are traveling and how dangerous it can be, and research advisories and what they mean. The most important part to being safe can be planning beforehand and being knowledgeable about where you are. Remember that if you are traveling within the next few months, it wouldn’t be odd to see military men walking around piazzas with large guns, ready for anything that could happen. Security has been vamped up in all airports, plazas and train stations around Europe to ensure our safety.

All in all, we, as human beings who have a duty to learn about the world around us, can not allow the fear terrorists and other hate groups instill in us to dictate our actions. No matter where in the world we are — whether we stay at home or go out and choose to venture the world — we are never immune from danger. In spite of this, we should get in the car and take that road trip, get on the plane to the next country over or even just take the train to work, while keeping an open yet careful mind. We must choose to continue our world experiences and live as though we have no fear. If we don't, what kind of life are we living?

Sophie Nieto-Munoz is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and Italian. She is currently studying abroad in Italy through CIEE. Her column, “Views from the +39” runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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Sophie Nieto-Munoz

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