Bombing adds a touch of fear to concert-going

Published 7:01 am Sunday, May 28, 2017

I remember asking my parents at my first concert as a child if Billy Joel would play “Piano Man.” I rediscovered the concert bug in high school and have eagerly attended concerts for the last few years, but not once have I ever questioned my safety at a show.

But many parents and children are now questioning if it’s safe to attend concerts this summer and beyond after a bomb killed at least 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester this week.

This was just one of the many things that saddened me after the latest terror attack at a public place — that yet another thing that has been special to many people is now tainted with mourning, worry, fear and other emotions.

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In the aftermath, the Associated Press ran an article talking to parents and children around the globe about their worries about concerts with the headline “Parents weigh in on concert fears after Manchester.”

The story’s author Leanne Italie talked to Julie Dearing in Houston, Texas, about her 11-year-old daughter, who’d attended her first concert this year. The show featured Fifth Harmony and other acts perform at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

“That was her first concert,” Dearing told the AP. “I wasn’t worried then, but I am now. I don’t know that I would let her go to a concert now and I don’t anticipate her asking again, at least not for a long time. She expressed to me she no longer has a desire to attend a large concert after hearing this news. It was very frightening, understandably so.”

I can’t blame them for their fears, but it left me sad to think of my own experiences and what could be taken.

As the AP story pointed out, concerts often act as a rite of passage for young people. I remember as a teenager attending Albert Lea High School, I attended several concerts at the Target Center and The Quest in downtown Minneapolis.

I didn’t see it as significant then, but these shows did serve as a rite of passage, marking some of my first adolescent adventures into the big city. I’d usually wear a concert T-shirt the next day at school — even if it still carried the aromas picked up in the usual concert venue — and I’d occasionally notice other people wearing shirts I didn’t even know had been at the show too.

Concerts have continued to be a special, fun experience for me to share as an adult. I’ve gone with my dad to see classic acts like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, and in the last few months I’ve enjoyed taking my fiancee to see a few of my favorite acts: Radiohead and Jim James.

But with each terror attack, it feels like we lose another piece of ourselves in being forced to question the things in which we find joy.

In 2012 after James Holmes shot and killed 12 people and injured 70 at a Colorado showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” I found myself in a movie theater looking suspiciously at people sitting alone in the theater.

It’s a sobering reminder of the evil strength of terrorism: The act itself, no matter how horrifying, is just a part of the equation. While Manchester bombing likely doesn’t affect most here in Minnesota directly, we’re left with the aftermath of fear and worry. Few, if any, places are left untarnished — movie theaters, planes, businesses, schools, concert venues, churches, crowded streets, malls, etc.

Earlier this week, I questioned if I’d think twice before attending my next concert. It seemed oddly fitting when I remembered the end of my most recent show, when the members of Radiohead led the crowd in singing the last line of “Karma Police” a cappella: “For a minute there, I lost myself.”

With that, I knew I wouldn’t hesitate to go to my next show — but I can’t guarantee I won’t look over my shoulder a time or two.