Safety. It’s something that we, as college students, are often fortunate enough to push to the back of our minds. We exist for the most part on enclosed campuses – or, as in the case of NYU, small campus environments within large cities – and as such, we enjoy a modicum of shelter that we tend to increase and extend, perhaps farther than we should. Luckily, it is rare for these extensions of safe boundaries to result in something dangerous or horrible.
Recently, however, I have been forced to think about both the consequences of being unsafe, and the tragedies that can occur even in the most seemingly harmless of places: I transferred from Boston College last semester, and I still visit regularly. To me, it is one of the safest places imaginable. The campus is located outside of Boston in the suburbs, and everything is walk-able and green and beautiful. The familiar hangouts are close by, and it is never unusual to walk to and from off-campus houses at one or two in the morning. And usually, everyone is safe and sound.
Except for one student: a male student has been missing since February 22. He was last seen at the most popular BC bar around 12:15 AM celebrating Mardi Gras, and there’s been no word since. The police, as well as family, friends and students, are all rallying to try and find him. Personally, I’m scared that something like this – even if no foul play was involved – has occurred, and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family that Franco Garcia will be found.
This tragedy has brought home for me the fact that we must continually evaluate and renew our safety measures. And this is especially true in New York City, a place that can be in many ways dangerous for the very same reasons it is so incredible: the constant excitement and dynamism, the ability to go anywhere at anytime, and the ease of public transportation. Nothing is foolproof. But we must always put our safety first, and there are tried and true measures to give us the best edge.
- Always have a buddy when you go out, and try to go out in groups. The old adage is true: there is safety in numbers. Moreover, having one person within a group whom you vow to look out for, and who will look out for you, is essential in maintaining safety.
- As much as possible, go where there are students or people of a similar age group or mindset. Yes, it’s great to explore NYC, but we must do it safely. For those wild nights, it is best to have limits and to keep to the familiar. Save the explorations for daytime, and try to learn about a new club or bar in an unknown neighborhood before you venture there at night.
- Never go home alone. This goes along with designating a buddy for the night: it is important to let people know where you are and where you are going. If you’re tired and want to cut out early, that’s fine, but make sure you tell somebody and don’t walk alone.
- Take a cab. I know that cabs can be expensive, but late at night, especially when you’ve been out drinking, it’s worth the $10 fare. Don’t walk along the dark streets of unknown places – and even in familiar ones, it’s best not to take a chance. And similarly, though the subway is efficient and cheap, at one in the morning, you don’t want to be on it with just your girlfriends.
- Be aware of your surroundings. This one is obvious, but always worth repeating!
- Always charge your phone before going out for the night. I know it can be tough to remember, and sometimes your phone just simply dies, but it is essential to have that line of communication available in case something should happen, or someone should need to get in touch with you.
- Stay in crowded and well-lit areas. If you’re going from place to place, or simply settling at one spot for the night, the safest place is one in which there are both people and lights. It is much easier to get lost or to attract danger when you’re alone in the dark.
- Bring both cash and a credit card (if you have one). It’s important to have a means of getting home, or getting away, in an emergency. That’s why you should have cash (or a debit card), and also a credit card for back up. Trust me, if you’re in real danger, your parents won’t mind if you rack up a bill trying to get to safety.
These are only some of the bigger safety measures we should all be taking. Most importantly, if a situation feels wrong, or if you ever feel unsafe, tell somebody and leave immediately. Missing a party, or looking foolish to some people you’ll never see again, is not worth putting yourself in danger. We can all still have fun and live our lives to the fullest – and also keep that sense of safety on our college campuses – as long as we recognize that actively taking control of this safety is critical.
Lastly, though you don’t know him, please keep Franco Garcia in your thoughts, and pray with me that he is found.