Terrorist attacks make the humdrum rhythm of the city feel like an act of resistance

Cities like New York and London and Mumbai are inevitable targets for extremists. They defy zealots and purists. They are diverse, complicated, and contradictory.

Far & Near column in the Hindustan Times, 10 November, 2017

I grew up in Manhattan and lived in the heart of New York City through my 20s. I would go regularly for long runs through the island to the Hudson River. What was once a quasi-industrial line of warehouses and docks has been spruced up recently into a congenial waterfront park. With the lazy river on one side, I’d jog south past the stumps of old wooden piers towards the skyscrapers of New York’s financial district. I’d take a break by the water and watch ferries cross back and forth to New Jersey as I caught my breath.

It was along this same path that a man drove his rented truck mercilessly over cyclists on 31 October. The Uzbek driver, who was a legal resident of the United States, copied similar ISIS-aligned attacks on civilians. This was the most significant Islamist terrorist incident in New York since 2001.

Typically in a city as embedded in the world as it is part of the United States, the victims in New York came mostly from other countries. Of the eight people killed, two were American, one was Belgian, and five were from Argentina. (Outside of New York, no place has been as affected by this attack as the Argentinian city of Rosario, the hometown of all five slain Argentines. It is observing several days of mourning.)

There is no sense to be made out of their killings. One grief-stricken person described his friend’s death to the Argentine press as “a death without meaning.”

That absence of meaning is central to most terrorist attacks. The arbitrariness of the atrocity implicates everyone, giving rise to that common refrain after every terrorist incident, “It could have been me.” I was miles away in Brooklyn when the attack happened, but I found myself immediately feeling it personally, remembering my thousands of footsteps on that same asphalt, seeing through my own eyes – not through the lenses of photographers or CCTV cameras – the corner of West and Chambers Streets where the attacker careened to a stop.

Read the rest of the piece on the Hindustan Times

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