It’s The Randomness That Makes Terrorist Attacks So Frightening

Statisticians point out we Americans are more likely to die from falls in the bathtub or being struck by lightning than because of a terrorist attack. We shouldn’t worry so much about terrorism, we’re told.

Roughly twice as many Americans have been killed by lightning as have perished in terrorist attacks during the past few years. Deaths from falls in bathtubs and showers are even worse, at between 10 and 20 times the toll from terrorism.

But we can stay inside during lightning storms, install no-slip strips in showers and bathtubs and take other measures to avoid accidental death.

The same cannot be said about terrorism. People in Berlin were merely enjoying some Christmas shopping the other day, when a truck driven by a terrorist plowed into them, killing 12 and injuring scores.

Terrorists can and do strike anywhere, at marathon runs, office parties, theaters, restaurants and bars and many other places.

It is the very unpredictability and randomness of the threat that makes it so frightening.

That threat has increased during the past several years. Minimizing the concern may be fine for statisticians, but not for Americans wondering why we have to be afraid to ride subways, visit our nation’s capital, enjoy holiday celebrations or engage in dozens of other activities that should not carry with them an element of fear.