For many of us, Friday was just another night. Many of us were with friends. Maybe we were watching movies, studying in our dorms or at bars in Deep Ellum. But amidst our revelry, we saw our phones light up, texts come in and headlines blare: terrorists had struck the City of Lights yet again, just a few short months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks killed 11 people in January.
Horrific images and videos streamed online in the ensuing hours, broadcasting wounded Parisians flooding out of the Stade de France and Bataclan concert hall, and bodies strewn on sidewalks in front of bars and restaurants.
As I sat in my apartment with friends, one of my first thoughts was, “Thank God the Romers are on their Northern Italy trip.” And indeed, many University of Dallas students in the coming weeks and months must ask themselves how living in an increasingly dangerous era of terrorism — most commonly carried out by radical Muslims — will affect study and travel abroad.
Sure, we know traveling to Syria or Iraq would potentially be dangerous. But Paris? I spent my Easter break there in perfect peace and tranquility during my Rome semester in the spring of 2014.
What about Germany? Just yesterday, officials evacuated the HDI-Arena before the start of a soccer match whose attendees included German Chancellor Angela Merkel after receiving information about a plot to detonate a bomb during the game.
Turkey? Turkish authorities just announced that they foiled a major attack in Istanbul which was to occur the same night as the Paris attacks. They also share a border with war-torn Syria.
The scariest thing about terrorism — indeed, its purpose — is that we often have no way to know when or where a strike might occur. National intelligence is able to prevent some or even many attacks, but other times they will occur unannounced: randomly and in unexpected places.
UD students love St. Padre Pio’s saying: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” I like this phrase as well. But it’s not how we should approach travel in an age of global terrorism. Though we can’t live in fear, we can’t chuck prudence out the window even as we place hope elsewhere. Increased vigilance and extra caution are two steps we can take.
But what else can we do?
For the Romers, I have no doubt that the capable Dr. Peter Hatlie, dean of the UD Rome campus, will be advising students on these issues as they leave the nest of Due Santi to explore Europe.
For others going to Europe and elsewhere around the globe, a common safety tip is to travel in groups. As much as we like to embrace our independent spirit at UD, traveling alone — even for men — can be dangerous.
Another common tip is to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Department of State travel advisories. These will inform potential travellers of risks of travelling to certain locales, what to avoid and the latest threats against specific countries. But don’t let fear prevent you from travelling or experiencing adventure. That is exactly how terrorists win: by instilling terror in people. I’m not giving up my hope of going back to England or even my dream of visiting Lebanon one day. Without sounding too hopeless, there’s not a whole lot we can do. But I won’t let a group of very misguided people radically affect how I live my life. And neither should you.