July 22nd, 2012
09:14 AM ET

Letters to the President #1280: 'Be safe'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day.

Dear Mr. President,

My older daughter called from London this weekend and we talked about the shootings in Colorado. She reached out through Facebook and emails to check on some of our family friends back there shortly after the massacre and she’d reassured us that they were ok, but this call was more of a…“well, here we are” kind of conversation.

She said something to me that was strangely disturbing and comforting all at once. She told me that she goes to movies, concerts, restaurants, amusement parks, malls and more the same way I do. Let me explain what that means.

It is an odd adjunct of my professional life that for many years, even in my private hours, I have been sharply aware of how events like these mass shootings unfold. Accordingly, in any public setting I habitually check out the exits, sweep the people in the room for signs of unrest, assess possible bottlenecks if a panic began, and on and on and on. I don’t know if any of it would make my family safer if calamity came our way, but I like to think it would. I like to think it would give us that tenth of a second jump that would keep us alive. I like to think it would give me a scrap of a moment to stop a killer. I like to think…well, it’s sort of like a superstition, isn’t it? The truth is, I’ve been in enough dangerous circumstances to know that you can only do so much to improve your odds, and many people who do everything right in a dire moment still wind up as victims.

Still, our girls have grown up in a news house, and they emulate their parents, as kids so often do. The fact that this might give them even the tiniest fraction of a better chance in the midst of some mayhem is encouraging.

The part that disturbs me is that we have always taught them to be happy and optimistic; to know that most people, in most places are basically good; that the world is a lovely place full of beauty and promise. It is sad to think that despite that they walk into crowds of their fellow beings and have at least a hint of worry; that they too look for the exits and the darkening brows of violence. I had hoped that would be my curse alone; the remnant of a life spent peering into the darkness of what Robert Burns called “man’s inhumanity to man.”

But perhaps it is a burden, as long as we live in this world, that all of us…in some part…must bear and share.

Hope all is well.