I grew up I'm Manhattan and went to high school in the Bronx. The summer before I started taking the train to school every day a up and coming violinist named Renee Katz was pushed by a homeless dude onto the train tracks right as the train pulled into the station, severing one of her hands and ending her hopes of being a professional violinist. That terrified me. It was unprovoked and senseless. For the first few months of school I would wait for my train with my back pressed against the filthy subway wall, not wanting to leave the slightest space for anyone to get behind me and push me into the tracks. To this day (40 years later...) my heart beings to race as I hear the tracks begin their buzz and hum as the train approaches.
When I got off the train to school I had to walk two endlessly long blocks to the school. The blocks were deserted, as they bordered the campus of Lehman College, the sunken rail yard where graffiti covered trains sat empty and motionless in waiting and fields where no one ever seemed to actually play on.
I may have been a big fraidy cat, but that commute was scary. I felt somewhat ok on the train despite the dicey neighborhoods we passed through, but once off the train, I was all head down all business just to get to school in one piece. I had a friend who was often late and had to walk that walk from the subway station alone and he would sometimes get mugged by the boys from a nearby all boys high school. Back then stealing some kid's train passes was a big score. It meant unlimited train rides Monday through Friday anywhere in the city from 5AM to 5PM every day. Those of us who were granted train passes had some serious after school adventure back then. And if you got mugged you where on your own fare wise, so losing your train pass was a big deal.
Here is where being a kid was better back then. The second I saw my school, as soon as I turned the corner and saw the students in the yard and that squat ugly building, I knew I was safe. And once I was inside of the school? I was totally safe. I never for one second worried that I could be harmed in any way inside the walls of my high school. As I should have felt. For me, high school was a really nice place. We didn't even have bullies, as far as I knew. (Corroborated later in life by one of my classmates- it was ideal as far as those things were concerned) I never for one moment felt unsafe in my school. Even the day there was a fire in a science lab, and we all stood out in the cold for something like 2 hours before heading to our various modes of public transportation and going home, didn't feel threatening. As a matter of fact, that science lab fire is the most potentially frightening thing I can imagine from my years in high school and it wasn't in the least bit frightening, only kind of chilly because it was winter.
It breaks my heart that kids today are trying to figure out how they are going to run from danger, hide in their classrooms or if they want to be a hero and take a bullet for someone else. I've been watching the March on television. It's unbelievable that we live in world today where these are the things our children have to plan for. And by unbelievable I mean completely fucked up.