An hour before the bomb threat, hundreds of people were already running—to see Kerry Cronin. They moved in shifting packs. Staircases spilled over with students and ice and snow. But Robsham was locked, and within five minutes of this horrible frightening recognition, every student was digging their feet in to turn around and run back.
Cronin decided against going back up the Million Dollar Staircase she had just walked down—she, like the students, had been redirected to Robsham, too. She opted for the elevator. That was the joke she opened up with, and it got the crowd laughing—those who were able to make it back and get a seat, that is.
Something happened. Although Cronin’s Love Talk was scheduled for Devlin 008, and people were getting there over an hour early to secure a good spot, there was a last minute change announced to the room: since the concert that was supposed to take place at Robsham was cancelled, Robsham would become the new venue for the talk. And the people were off.
Forty minutes into Cronin’s talk, something else happened: a bomb threat was signaled by the University’s emergency notification system. Every single exit of the room and the rows between the seats were clogged with people. No one flinched. Not even Cronin, who was made aware of the threat, and waited about a minute before continuing the discussion on the hooking-up process. No one left.
The procedure that was relayed through the first alert was to “shelter in place,” which is understandable. The alternative would be to tell students to flee, and that kind of mass panic wouldn’t help anything. But more than a thousand people were scheduled to attend Cronin’s talk. All exits were blocked. Why plant a bomb in Lower—why not go for maximum casualties? (Stifle your questions of this author’s paranoia and picture sitting where he was, dead center of that lecture hall, with all of those people, all of that claustrophobia, no one reacting, everyone talking about dating and first dates and the hook-up culture. Add a second alert for the evacuation of dining halls campus wide. You’d feel paranoid, too.)
The night of Feb. 12 could be considered a prime case study of the human condition—say run, and we run, say stay, and we stay, no matter the odds—but it’s a lot more than our willingness to follow directions: it’s about the illusion of safety, The Good and The Bad.
Save small outlying opinions like my own, two assumptions were made campus-wide when the bomb threat went out (the latter more distributing than the former, and the former leading into the latter).
“A bomb? If people wanted to kill us, they wouldn’t warn us first,”—the assumption that people looking to kill think rationally.
“A bomb? There is no bomb,”—the assumption that we are untouchable.
Like someone who doesn’t wear a helmet until they’ve taken a terrible knee-splitting fall off their bike, the latter statement’s thought process is: “I’ve never had a bomb go off in front of me before, so it’s likely that it won’t go off now,” which is simultaneously a fair and foolish assessment. No one should have the privilege of thinking nothing bad can happen to him or her—the Marathon Bombings of 2013 should bring into crystal clear view the horrors we face.
Why do we think it, then? Something as horrible as a bomb going off is supposed to happen to someone else, not us. But, by thinking that it should happen anywhere else means that intrinsically we think that something bad could happen everywhere else on the planet except the one, small spot we are in, and to think a thought like that is neurotic and insane and asylum-white-straight-jacket worthy.
And, yet, here we are.
The illusion of safety: the very best things in life, The Good, will come our way, and the very worst things in life, The Bad, will stay out of our way. We believe love should be in our lives—this is why we go to Cronin’s talk in such force, and we listen to this very witty woman talk so bluntly, and we swoon over the lost art of dating and romance, and we hope for the our feelings of inadequacy, longing, loneliness and despair to disappear. The night of Feb. 12 lends itself to a literal description of this metaphor: 500 people crammed into a lecture hall remaining seated in the upright and locked position, begging for The Good, ignorant of The Bad.
To be clear, Cronin was by no means supposed to instruct an evacuation—the alert clearly said to “shelter in place”—but to see so many people on autopilot simultaneously is something else.
“A bomb? Forget that. Tell me how to be happy again.” People so desperately want answers that they sprinted across campus to get them.
“You’re all here because you’re a mess,” Cronin said at one point in her talk, and she’s damn right. But we’re not a mess for any reason Cronin got at during her speech.
We’re a mess because we focus on the outward possibilities. If I get a date, my problems will be solved, we think.
Do the impossible—love inwardly. If you do not love you for all of you then going on an infinite number of dates will solve nothing. Wake up to the realities of existence, your own Good and Bad.
Pay more f—king attention to what is so obvious and right in front of you, something you sprint for at the wrong times, and shy away from at the right. Start thinking of love as impossibility—just like you thought that bomb going off was an impossibility. You must.
If love isn’t impossible then there are too many preconceived notions handed down in books and pop songs and romantic comedies to ever make it possible. Because if love is impossible then it can be nothing and if it is nothing then we can make it something. Don’t sit stagnant, following instructions.
Do not let these things just happen.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor