Last week I came across an article about two Swedish girls on exchange in Michigan. Their American experience didn’t turn out the way they expected. On Saturday, Feb. 20, they were out on the town in Kalamazoo when chaos erupted; a shooter drove around in a car shooting eight people at different locations.
The Swedish girls were able to get out of the scene. In the article, they explain that they see these kinds of incidents on TV all the time, but they can’t believe they actually ended up in the middle of it. They wanted to leave the U.S. the following day.
Growing up in Sweden, where gun laws are strict, I always felt safe. I feel safe in America, too, but maybe not as safe. Not long after I first came here, Purdue had a bomb threat toward one of the buildings. We received the message on our computers during class. I freaked out, starting to think about what we should do. Leave campus? Take shelter in the basement?
I looked around in the class room; my teacher and class mates didn’t seem to be bothered by the bomb threat. They looked calm and kept on working. I asked my friend next to me: “What are we going to do?”, and he said “Nothing, things like this happen all the time.”
That comment freaked me out even more. In Sweden I had never experienced anything like this, but in the U.S. it happens all the time? It turned out the threat was “just” a threat, so the day proceeded like nothing happened.
But it had an impact on me. Again, I do feel safe here, but I am more careful and cautious. It doesn’t stop me from doing what I want, but if there are two ways of doing something – one safe and one riskier – for example, having someone walk you home versus walking alone, I choose the safer way.