Last week's Boston Marathon bombings remain fresh and raw in our minds. The startled runners, the toppled barricades, the bloodied sidewalks and the injured screaming in anguish are burned into our memories.
In that moment we all felt vulnerable. If spectators cheering on the Boston Marathon could be targeted, we all could be targets of terrorism.
But we won't be.
How am I so sure? Since the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, when many claim that modern terrorism began in the United States, fewer than 3,200 people have died of terrorist attacks on American soil -- and that's using a very broad definition of what constitutes a terrorist attack.
That means about 160 people die in the U.S. each year from terrorist attacks -- three a week. But even that number is massively skewed. Ninety-three percent of all deaths from terrorism in America over the past two decades occurred on 9/11, when 2,977 people lost their lives.
In the dozen years since 9/11, 40 deaths have occurred in America as a result of domestic terrorism, including 12 killed by the Beltway snipers and 13 murdered during the Fort Hood killing spree.
Even with 9/11 in the equation, Americans have only a 1 in 2 million chance of dying from a domestic terrorist attack in a given year -- roughly the same odds you have of being killed by lightning or from falling out of bed. In fact, you are twice as likely to die in a bathtub accident as you are from being killed by terrorists.
It is tragic that three people died in the Boston attacks, even moreso because they were all young, innocent victims whose lives ended at the hands of callous and loathsome villains. But you know what killed more people last week than the terrorist attack in Boston? Avalanches, stairs, swimming pools and choking on dinner.
So did diarrhea, bronchitis, sleep apnea, hernias, peptic ulcers and something called cervical incompetence. Baby products, ATVs and police officers all killed a lot more Americans last week than domestic terrorism. Still, we don't fear of any of those things the way we fear terrorism. Our fear of terrorism is far less rational, statistically speaking, than worrying about stairs, baby beds and hernias.
Here in the Chattanooga area, we are even safer than in many other parts of America. That's because terrorists like to make a statement, and they also tend to want to harm as many people as possible. Fortunately for us, terrorizing Nightfall or a Lookouts game doesn't make much of a statement, and attacking the fourth-largest city in the 17th largest state in America probably wouldn't result in a particularly alarming body count.
Terrorism is frightening -- hence the name "terrorism." It's also extraordinarily well reported (exploited, even) by the media, so you are more aware of deaths caused by acts of terrorism than almost anything else. The overwhelming odds, however, are that neither you nor anyone you know will never die in a terrorist attack.
The only way most of us will ever be impacted by terrorism is if we allow terrorists and their despicable deeds to fill our minds with worry. When we live our lives burdened by the irrational fear of terrorism, the terrorist will have won -- even if they never topple another building, explode another bomb or kill another soul. As Americans, we must recognize that the only real threat terrorists pose is the fear that we allow ourselves to feel. As Franklin Roosevelt wisely put it, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."