K., 29: “Right now I’m really anxious because I’m going to be moving to Chicago for the summer, and I only have an unpaid internship worked out. So I have to figure out where I’m going to live, and like, how I’m going to eat — and not die. I’m a little bit worried about that. … I’m a lot worried about that.”
Sallie, 48: " Sometimes when I'm driving, “I'm scared that I might take the wheel and jerk it, and like, drive off the road, or off a bridge, or something. It's the dumbest thing, ever. And trying to explain that ... you either get it, or you don't."
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. February 14, 2018
FEAR: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT
Bethany, 30: "I was still in bed when my phone started buzzing. I thought I had set my alarm by accident. I reached for it and looked at the screen. In all caps it said 'BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.'
This is not a drill. Not a drill.
My heart hit the floor. What do I do? Our home is open air. There are windows everywhere and no interior room. No basement. I knew I only had between 12-15 minutes before it would hit.
My husband was on a skiing trip in Colorado. I dialed him as I stumbled from the bedroom. He answered. I knew I sounded frantic, so I led with 'I'm OK,' and I told him about the message. He is in the Coast Guard so I was hopeful he could get info that I could not. He looked online and couldn't find anything. Of course he couldn't. It hadn't been enough time for the news to pick it up. He told me to grab a mattress and get in the bathtub under it. The mattress was too big. I thought fast and grabbed couch cushions. I pulled the dog in the bathroom and shut the door.
It was a beautiful, sunny Hawaii morning. It seemed so unreal. This is not a drill.
My husband had started texting guys from his work. Everyone was saying they had gotten the same text. He told me to keep the cushion on top of me and that he was going to call someone in his coast guard shop and he would call me right back.
As I laid in the cold porcelain tub with the cushions on top I thought 'Wow, this is it. They've finally done it.' I got angry at our world leaders. I kept listening for a blast. My fingers fumbling, I went to the Hawaii state website to see if there could be more confirmation than the emergency text.
I kept listening for a blast. It had to be close.
The site wouldn't load. I feared the towers had gone down or the system had been hacked and all communication was lost. My husband wouldn't be able to call back. I was afraid to be alone, but I was relieved he was safe.
I noticed I still had service. I thought about calling my parents but I didn't want that to be a lasting memory for them. Everyone knew I loved them.
My phone rang and it was my husband. He said he was still trying to find information.
I thought about how this would cause a war. This would be just the start. I feared for my family. My fears escalated at that point. Enough time had lapsed, it should hit any moment. I wasn't ready. I shake when I am scared. Adrenaline was full force and my teeth started to chatter. I imagined the impact would feel like jumping from a cliff into the ocean. It would be like moment you hit the water and then everything goes dark. I hoped. I was trying to control my breath.
I hear the words, 'They just said it is false. I got another text from the shop saying it is false. Are you OK?'
I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and started crying. Slowly, I got out of the tub. I was OK.
The rest of my day, I made phone calls and tried to enjoy every moment. I took myself out to brunch, I spent time with friends and felt a lot of gratitude to still be here.
When I read that message my hearts still drops a little. It has been blasted all over the news. Friends had taken screen shots of it and posted it on social media. It was a false alarm, but for about 20-30 minutes it was very real for me. It was the most terrifying message that translated to me having only minutes to live."
Tara, 21: "I have two fears combined into one. My first fear is, what if I am unable to have children? My husband and I have been trying but it seems as if God, or someone, won't give us the chance to have a child. The second fear I have is a little scarier than the first. What if I have a child, but it has health problems? I am scared to death that my future child will not be 'the normal' child. What if there is something wrong? Will I be able to handle the stress, sadness and hopelessness of them ever recovering? There is also this part inside of me that says I am 21, I have plenty of time to have kids. I am young, and I am healthy, so my future children should be, too, right? Maybe I am not as healthy as I think I am."
C: “I was an EMT student, and I was doing clinical time in a city squad when a call came over the radio that a man was unconscious in his house. We ran there, and he was unconscious on the floor. We did the best we could to save him. I can still feel the moment during CPR when his ribs cracked. I can still see his face. It haunts me, even years later. What if there was something else I could’ve done, something I could’ve tried? I still struggle with it.”
Sue, 60, nearly lost her life in a California fire in 1991. It's still painful for her to talk about it today. It was Oct. 19, 1991 — the day of the Oakland, California, fire that killed 25 people and destroyed 3,500 homes. During the first few hours of the blaze, Sue, who worked for a newspaper at that time, headed out with a photographer, Angela, to document what was happening. Things shifted very quickly out in the field. Sue clearly recalls the heaviness in the air — oxygen depletion. "Out of the darkness and down a hill were two mopeds going at full speed. I yelled at the riders, frantically waving my arms to get them to stop," Sue said. "Angela was in her picture-making zone as I grabbed her by the collar. Two rides out of nowhere had arrived to take us from this hell. We had to go. Now. My fear? That I will once again be caught in a hell fire like California is again experiencing ... without an escape."
Las Vegas mass shooting, Oct. 1, 2017.
Fifty-eight killed; 489 wounded.
Voices from Florida, as Irma closes in.
Thinking about Harvey and its aftermath — and the people whose lives have been lost or turned upside down.
Olivia, 22, is terrified by what she's seen (the torches, Nazi flags) and afraid that others won't think her fears are real. When talking about her fears with me, I felt like I could see right through to her breaking heart.
Amber: "I fear that I may lose you because of me.
Because of my mind.
Because of my own self-pity.
That I will never feel good enough."
S: "I always want to get started on my projects at work in the form of technology / knowledge enhancement, and writing a book. ... But when it comes to the grind, I chicken out and leave it for tomorrow. And tomorrow never comes."
"I go for the catastrophe."
I've been thinking a lot about the Manchester bombing — but simply can't find the words to express what I feel. So ... this.
C, 25, fears that "everything that has gone wrong in my past is my past punishing me." It's bad karma, she says, and she feels there's nothing she can do about it.
At a recent gallery show of my fear illustrations, visitors had the opportunity to write down their own fears on index cards and tack them to a wall. Here are a handful of some of those fears — using their handwritten words and my quickly drawn interpretations of them.
Fear of failing school
Fear of not finding happiness
Fear of cancer’s return
Fear of not being oneself
Fear of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia
Fears after a brain injury
Fear of something, or someone, lurking
Fear of not being honest with one’s partner
Fear of losing one’s spouse
Fear of blindness
Fear of remaining in love with a childhood sweetheart
Fear of losing kids in custody battle
Fear of not being a good father
Fears around dyslexia
Fear of being left in the digital dust
Fear of being a failure in art
Fear of not finding the perfect place
Fear of not being a stable adult
Fear of letting people down
Fear of being mediocre
Fear of getting fat
Fear of making a decision
Fear of the unknown