September 22nd, 2016
Police Robot sent on the mission to deactivate/detonate the suspicious object.
The “new normal” paid me a visit on September 20, 2016 at 7:02 AM PST. My husband and I woke to the sound of our neighbor knocking on our door alerting us to news that the police and bomb squad were outside our condominium building. A medium-sized pressure cooker was found sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of our building. In no time, our quiet non-descript neighborhood in West Los Angeles, was turned into a crime scene. LAPD had barricaded all roads and streets around us blocking all types of traffic. The police robot was brought in which detonated the suspicious object. Luckily, the object was empty, no one was hurt though a little shaken. By 8:00 AM the police began lifting the barricades and one by one left the scene returning our neighborhood to normal.
This event happened at the heels of the bomb that exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood over the weekend. The term I heard on the NPR news hour, following the Chelsea explosion, was that this is the “new normal.” For a second, I nodded in agreement; yes, this is now the new normal and we just have to continue with our lives. Yet, this is not the new normal at least not for those of us growing up in the 1970’s where the “new normal” was most likely originally introduced. In the 70’s, I was attending a boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex County, England. This sleepy beach town, home to mostly blue-haired retirees and a couple of boarding schools, was the quintessential English town with charming tea shops and antique stores. Ensconced in the protective walls of my school, my classmates—fellow boarders from the four corners of the world—and I were hundreds of miles away from the terror and disruption experienced in European capitals like London, Munich, Rome and beyond. We did not have social media or round the clock cable news alerting us of terrorist attacks, but they existed and had become a part of our daily lives; the new normal.
Every morning, especially, in the last two years of my schooling, before the start of our classes, we would converge in the school’s small library and pour over the daily newspapers in preparation for a pop quiz to be delivered by our fastidious History teacher, Miss Wade, an Australian transplant. This exercise kept us abreast of the world, the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Cold War between the USA and USSR, the Watergate Scandal, terrorist threats and attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain’s Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Italy’s Anni di Piombo (Years of Lead) and the Red Brigade, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Libyans, Germany’s Red Army Faction aka Baader Mainhoff Gang, and other subversive groups with agendas to disrupt societies and topple governments. A day didn’t pass us by without news of a plane hijacking, explosion at an airport or Tube station in London, kidnappings of top government officials, and even the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Prime Minister of Italy. There was even the 1975 brazen hostage taking of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who were meeting in Vienna, Austria by German and Arab terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal. And, let us not forget the brutal hostage taking and massacre of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
In September 1975, during a weekend visit to London, where I was going to spend the time with my father who was staying at the Hilton Hotel on a business trip, the lobby of the hotel became the target of a suspected IRA bomb explosion. My father and I had just the left the hotel to dine at a nearby restaurant and returned to find the entrance blocked off with police, ambulance and fire trucks parked outside in the driveway. Two people were killed and 63 people were injured in the main lobby. Londoners woke up the next day to the tragic news and set off to work, school, or on errands as before. It was the new normal.
Another time, in mid-70’s, when returning to England after a short holiday at home in Iran, the BOAC flight from Tehran to London made a surprise landing in Beirut, Lebanon. It may have been a technical problem which had forced the Captain to land us in Beirut. We were not allowed to disembark. I was most likely 13 or 14, traveling alone, something I did regularly on the trips between school and home and back. I had read about the civil war which had erupted in Lebanon and remember looking out the window of the airplane and through the darkness of the night, I could make out the silhouettes of tanks and military vehicles. It was an eerie sight and one that I remember clearly to this day. The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps an hour but soon after takeoff the Captain apologized on the PA system for the unscheduled stop and explained how lucky we were to have taken off when we did as the airport had been the target of a bombing as soon as we were in the air.
In its March 25, 2016 article, The Telegraph includes a glimpse into what the world was like in the 70’s and 80’s, marred by terrorist attacks fueled by various governments and insurgent groups. The world, as the old saying goes, has not just recently gone to hell in a hand basket. Yes, there’s no denying the horrific impact and loss of lives brought on by this century’s recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., Norway, Spain, Belgium and France, the ravages of the Civil War in Syria, the Refugee crisis, the savagery of religious fanatics who will go unnamed as their mere mention gives their heinous acts credit. In no way am I belittling or dismissing this century’s horrible acts of violence. The present is as equally horrible as the past. The new normal has been with us throughout history. I always say that the only way to understand or make sense of the present is to know our history. It will not lessen the grief for the loss of a loved one or a way of life, but knowing the lessons learned from the past offer us perspective and focus to understand the present so that we can courageously navigate our way through it empowered without feeling afraid and helpless. It may sound trite or simplistic, but there is something to be said for the two words “Carpe Diem,” so beautifully memorialized in the film “Dead Poet’s Society,” by the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The lessons of the past are there for us to learn from. We need to know the past in order to survive the present with its currents threats and Seize the Day.
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.