After a weekend filled with gunfire, fear is the new normal across America

After a weekend filled with gunfire, fear is the new normal across America

Crowds were filing out of Broadway theaters Tuesday evening when a series of loud booms and cracks filled the air. Firecrackers? Gunshots? A terrorist explosion?

At the Shubert Theater, where “To Kill a Mockingbird” was in its final scene, the cast fled to their dressing rooms as the audience screamed and crouched behind upholstered seats. At the Imperial, where the curtain of “Dear Evan Hansen” had only just fallen, the building went on lockdown. At the Hirschfeld, where “Moulin Rouge” had only minutes before received a standing ovation, departing crowds pushed and bumped and cried and ran until everyone around them had stopped running.

There was no shooter. The sound was a backfire from a group of motorcycles on West 45th Street. But the panic, the sense that what they had dreaded was taking place, the shock mixed with an eerie familiarity, was evidence of the new normal in America, where there have been 255 mass shootings so far this year. Two of the deadliest had taken place just the previous weekend.

“It’s like we never thought it would happen but we always thought it would happen, and now it was happening,” said Robin Gorman Newman, a Tony Award-nominated producer who was one of those who found herself running with a crowd after seeing “Moulin Rouge.” “You realize how much life has changed.”

Fear is not new to America. There have long been streets that are unsafe, and neighborhoods that are at risk of riots, blackout drills and schoolchildren sheltering under their desks. Since 9/11 (or maybe Columbine, or perhaps Oklahoma City), it has been a steady thrum beneath the studied layer of normalcy in the U.S. Concrete barriers here. Shoes off at security checks there. Bans on backpacks. READ MORE