A city lit by police beacons

Mallory Steffey, Contributing Writer

I sat in my friend’s NYU dorm room at 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 17, desperately refreshing #Chelsea on Twitter. Not because I was particularly interested in what anyone in Chelsea was doing at that hour, but because I had—stupidly, I admit— brushed off a friend’s remark about a dumpster fire as my boyfriend, a few of my University graduate friends, and I walked through the city earlier.

Outside, my boyfriend insisted he get me an Uber to my friend’s dorm. I obliged mainly because he seemed worried about it. The 16 block walk was one I felt comfortable with, even in the dark, but there was something about the way he said “please” that made me bend. I got in, reminded him to text me when he was ready to leave for his apartment in Harlem, N.Y., and waved goodbye. It was only after the door snapped shut and we pulled away from the curb that I began to listen to the faint New York City radio station that my driver had playing. Texts from my friend who attends NYU began to roll in.

There had been an explosion in Chelsea, N.Y. at 8:30 p.m. A little over an hour later, I moved closer to the site as my car approached its destination—just four blocks from where the bomb had gone off.

I picked up snippets, tried to place together the frantic texts from my friend as she gave me details, and wondered whether she would be evacuated. Beginning to understand what had just happened, I looked up, watched the rush of civilian cars out of the area and the rush of police, ambulance, and other first responders in.

I arrived at my friend’s dorm as they located a second bomb. No news source updated faster than various accounts (New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department, etc.) on Twitter.

As I combed my feed, looking for new information regarding the explosion, I found instead pages upon pages of attacks from both sides of the political aisle. Democrats accused Republicans of jumping to conclusions about the assailant, Republicans accused Democrats of hoping the assailant was a white man, both accused the other of furthering terrorism in the United States. All I needed to know was whether the F train was running again, if police had located the second bomb, if the streets were safe enough to walk on, and if we needed to eye every trashcan with suspicion.

It was, in a word, ridiculous.

I still don’t know quite how I feel about what happened that night. But I do know that bipartisan politicizing of terror and traumatic events (especially as they’re happening) is more than unhelpful, it is disrespectful to the victims. Those injured on Sept. 17 and the residents of Chelsea were certainly victims who needed love, support, and good thoughts (or prayers, if that’s your thing). Politicizing the horror that took place, the torn trust, was—as I experienced it—a disgusting misuse of the powerful interconnectivity we hold.

Not to climb up on my trusty soapbox, but I’d like to say this: let those embroiled in national tragedy understand what’s happening to them, leave open lines of communication and news, allow the event to end and first responders to do their job. A political agenda is not as important as a life.

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