At 16 years old, and born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Ky Bourgeois of Moberly, Mo., has long had a heightened sense of danger.
“When I’m in a place with a ton of people, I’m always conscious something really bad could happen, but that’s just, like, my anxiety,” she said Tuesday, one day after 22 people, including children, were killed and more than 50 were injured in a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.
“My sense is,” said her friend Kourtney Jacobson, 17, of Belton, “because of the bombing, they want to say it’s terrorism and everything. But you always have to think of all the shootings at the mall and everything.”
“For me,” Bourgeois interjected, “it’s like when I’m at school, that’s when I’m the most on edge. … Even when there is just, like, an assembly and everybody’s in the same room, I’m like, ‘Something bad could happen. … This could be really unsafe.’ ”
Such were the sentiments of numerous people Tuesday in Kansas City who acknowledged that as much as they were saddened and disturbed by Monday’s mass killing in Great Britain — suspected to have been by a lone suicide bomber — wariness and vigilance in the face of terrorism or other sudden acts of violence have become a regrettable part of daily life.
“Sadly, it’s become a more normal state of affairs,” said Karrin Meffert-Nelson, a clarinetist in Kansas City from Minnesota for a college conference. “I would say, sure, it (the Manchester bombing) increases fear in that you’re in public places all of the time. … It’s been there before that event in Manchester, and it continues after. Yes, it increases it, but it’s more of the same, very sadly.”
Major news headlines speak to that experience:
Fourteen people killed and 22 injured in December 2015 by a co-worker during a work party in San Bernardino, Calif. Forty-nine killed the following June at Orlando, Fla.’s Pulse night club. One month later, a French-Tunisian man killed 86 people by barreling a truck at high speed along a crowded street in Nice, France, during France’s National Day celebration.
The list goes on: Dylann Roof’s killing of nine people in 2015 as congregants prayed at Charleston, S.C.’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church; the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; three killed and some 264 others injured by bombs planted at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Shu-ling Lu, a mother of two young daughters who is originally from Taiwan but now lives in Overland Park, said she thinks about the possibility of terrorism nearly every time she flies.
“I think that’s my main concern,” she said. “We don’t go to concerts or, like, a big sports event. My main concern is in the airport.”
Chandler Crowley, 18, of Overland Park, said, “Sometimes when I’m in, like, a big public place, I just wonder if there might be a shooting with things going on with ISIS. I get worried. If I go out of town, like to New York or something, that’s definitely a worry there that something could go wrong. Not so much in Kansas, but definitely when I travel.”
What to do about that concern is the dilemma. Most acknowledged there is little to do about it beyond honing a sense of caution and trusting that venues and police will remain equally vigilant.
In Kansas City, security measures at public venues such as Kauffman Stadium and the Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs are expected to change little, if at all, in the wake of Monday’s bombing.
Chris Fritz, president of the New West Presentations group that operates the amphitheater, said most large venues have security that would effectively thwart or stop an attacker from entering a venue, but incidents adjacent to or outside events would be difficult to stop.
“All the major venues in Kansas City, from the Chiefs’ stadium to Sprint to us and even the smaller venues, they have precautions,” Fritz said. “These kind of attacks ... they cannot be predicted usually. That bomber would never have gotten inside at Manchester because of metal detectors, spotters, all kinds of police.”
But national attacks on entertainment venues and public spaces do ignite a sense of hypervigilance for operators, even if they don’t always inspire changes in protocol, said Toby Cook, the Royals’ vice president for community affairs and publicity.
On Tuesday, Cook said, Major League Baseball urged its baseball clubs to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. It’s a mandate that often follows similar attacks, Cook said, including the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon that prompted requirements that baseball clubs make moves to screen 100 percent of its visitors with metal detectors.
“If something just doesn’t seem right, our folks are trained to address the situation,” Cook said. “This is something we’ve been dealing with for quite a long time with these various attacks, and the Manchester thing is the latest thing we have to be aware of.”
Cook said attacks have prompted changes that have actually made venues safer, like the limestone slabs outside Kauffman Stadium that are supposed to prevent drivers from ramming the stadium.
“No security measure can prevent an attack 100 percent,” Cook said. “With the people that we have inside the stadium and on the exterior, we have as good of a fighting chance as any venue of trying to keep something like that from happening.”
The reality that terrorism or other violence can erupt at any time and anywhere prompted many to express a similar sentiment: that it forces one to continue on with life in the face of that reality, with the understanding that the odds of any single individual being a victim of such violence are astronomical.
“I think you should always be aware,” said Mary Hutton of Springfield, a mother of two daughters ages 18 and 20, “but I don’t think you should live in fear, either. I mean I’d still go to a concert, and I’d still have my girls go to a concert. I think you’re just a little bit more aware of how to exit or what to do.”
Bourgeois, the teen from Moberly, said, “It used to be that when something like that happened, people put their lives on hold and it would be like, ‘This is a huge deal.’ But now it happens so often, if everybody put their lives on hold every time it happened, we wouldn’t have lives. So we just kind of desensitize ourselves to it.”
Julie Bartley, a professor of geology at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn., who was in Kansas City for the college conference, said that because of the bombing in Manchester and all similar events before, “people are necessarily more aware of risk in their surroundings.
“The risk is still small,” Bartley said. “But the fact that we’re aware of it I think actually has some positive dimensions to it. People deliberately choose to go to a place, to be with other people, to be at a concert, to exercise your right, your privilege, to enjoy yourself, even knowing that there may be some risk.
“I don’t think that risk was absent before. We could pretend that it wasn’t there. It’s very hard to pretend that now.”
Susannah Biondo, in town from Mount Vernon, Iowa, said, “I guess I just try to strike a balance.
“You know that that’s a part of their M.O. (modus operandi). They want, sort of, a public fear of this. So you don’t want to feed into that,” Biondo said. “But at the same time, you don’t want to be in a dangerous situation. So striking that balance is what I try to think about.
“I mean, I don’t let it change my decisions about doing things like traveling or going to public spaces, going to a concert or to a game. I’m not going to not do that because of this, but it certainly is something that is in the back of my mind, particularly when I have my children with me.”