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I was 13 years old the summer of 1977. What a crazy summer it was! (See The Family I Haven't Met Yet)
I'm a native New Yorker. At the time, my parents and maternal grandparents were the only family living on Long Island. (See 12 Facts About Long Island, New York)
The rest of my family lived in Queens or Brooklyn, boroughs of New York City. I spent a lot of time there. (See Family, Friends, Food And Fun!)
The year 1977 was the year Son of Sam was terrorizing New York City. He was finally arrested on August 10. Upon his arrest, authorities found a letter addressed to Suffolk County police. The Son of Sam was headed to Long Island!
I knew a lot of the story having lived through it and being in such close proximity. However, there were some new and interesting details.
Long Island is not far from the city. The man drove, he could easily have come out to Long Island and it's been proven he had every intention of doing just that! Even if he didn't drive, the Long Island Railroad is easily accessible as are buses.
In a mere 2 hours and 24 minutes one can travel from Manhattan to Montauk, stopping anywhere in between.
My parents and other adults in the family were worried. I loved to spend a week or two at my cousin's house in Queens. One of the victims was shot practically around the block from their home!!!!!!
Instead, my cousins wound up spending most of the summer out here on Long Island. Of course, back then, we thought our parents were nuts! After all, in a huge city like New York, how could they possibly think The Son of Sam was going to shoot just us!
Ahhhh, to be young, innocent and think we were invincible.
Invincible as young people believe they are, there's another side of them filled with fear. The Summer of '77 was the first time I ever felt anxiety. I didn't know what it was back then, I just knew I had a terrible feeling of dread. (See What Is Gephyrophobia?)
It got worse one day when we were sitting at the kitchen table and my dad was reading the paper. It was before they caught David Berkowitz, The Son of Sam. The Long Island Papers, like the New York City papers, ran articles regarding the case practically daily!
Back then, the television news, radio and the newspapers were the primary sources of information.
Dad was infuriated because the papers were actually NAMING AND GIVING addresses with pictures of local "lovers' lanes" here on Long Island. He couldn't believe it. He said, "They are drawing him a map!"
Back in 1977, this memorial was not yet built. The area was used as a "lovers' lane" by teens from all over. It was also used as a hangout spot - teens would get beer and go hang out and drink and smoke pot there. At 13, I was too young, but I knew of the area as it was not far from us. We used to go there in the winter as a family to go skiing and sledding!
Now there is also an amphitheater there. I saw Donna Summer and Diana Ross there back in the 1990's.
The paper had named it, shown pictures and basically gave freaken directions. The darn paper was leading this crazy person to our backdoor! It scared the hell out of me
Our elementary school, which my sisters still attended, was right near there. I was worried about what might happen if they didn't catch this psycho before school started!
And so... the papers drew a map to ALL the "lovers' lanes" here on Long Island, amazing as that sounds. If the shooter didn't know about them all previously, he knew about them now!!!
The shooter was targeting mostly young people, generally late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, most often in parked cars in secluded areas - "lovers' lanes" - although some victims were simply sitting in a vehicle chatting with a friend.
There had been rumors that The Son of Sam was heading to Long Island, specifically to the well-known discos of the time. I remember not long after my dad got so upset over the papers drawing a map for the killer, hearing other adults discussing the disco scenario.
That night, I couldn't sleep. The next day, I refused to be outdoors after dark unless it was in my own backyard. As kids, we used to play kick the can on summer nights with all the neighborhood kids. We'd run and hide all over the surrounding blocks. No more, I wasn't taking any chances. Part of me thought my parents were paranoid and the other part was me being paranoid and anxious.
At the time, I didn't know what anxiety was. I just knew that something was making me feel terrible and act different from how I normally did.
Back in the '70's these things weren't discussed as openly as they are today. Schools didn't have the resources they do today. These types of issues were often considered taboo.
People don't often notice anxiety in others. Rarely is it to the point where people notice drastic changes. It's mostly inside and if someone is moody or short with others, people chalk it up to a bad mood, teenage hormones, a hard day at work, etc.
Often, those suffering with anxiety don't verbalize. Sometimes, they themselves don't know what is happening. They just know something isn't right.
The Son of Sam wasn't the only problem that summer. There was also the infamous blackout! On July 13, 1977 at around 9:30 p.m., New York City was plunged into darkness and terror. My immediate family was not in New York during that time. We were on vacation in Pennsylvania with family on my mom's side.
I remember hearing about the blackout and not being able to fully enjoy the vacation because I was worried about all my family (dad's side) in the city. I was especially worried about my cousins.
There was no phone at the cabin we were staying at, similar to the one shown above. It was on a large piece of land with a pond in the middle of nowhere. Not my thing. I'm a big city girl. So is my mom. She didn't realize how secluded it was as her cousin made all the arrangements. We made the best of it, but, we were not happy. We did have fun moments, but, that's not our type of vacation.
Being in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around for miles, caused me even more anxiety. Years later I would feel the same way when I would go to Maine with my boyfriend. It was fun in some ways, but I can only take so much of "country life."
I felt trapped. The same as with a huge snowstorm. (See Snowstorm Anxiety When You Have Allergies, Asthma, Hashimotos, Cellulitis Issues) I'm used to everything being at my fingertips. Stores, hospitals, people, services, are all close by here.
The Summer of '77 caused me a lot of anxiety but was also one of the most fun summers I had. My cousins and their friend spent a good part of the summer here on Long Island and we had good times.
We may not have been going outdoors at night in the neighborhood, but we pulled all-nighters in my den, listening to music, talking, laughing and watching HBO, which was a novelty back then. We also created concoctions in mom's kitchen, including green pancakes and other interesting "meals" which were sometimes just too gross to eat.
We enjoyed snacks of the time too and were known to make frozen pizzas in the toaster oven at 2 a.m. We didn't have a microwave in the "dark ages." (See Memories - Vintage Foods From Years Gone By)
Those were the days when I could cook and eat like a NORMAL person! (See Food Allergy Awareness Week - YOU CAN HELP!!)
My dad would wake up at 4:30 a.m. daily to head to work on Wall Street in the city and we would still be up having fun!
But each morning, when he'd walk out the door to head into the city being terrorized by a madman, I'd feel my heart start palpitating, my hands get sweaty, it got harder to think clearly and sometimes I'd even tremble inside. You couldn't see any of this on the outside and I never told anyone. I suffered in silence, worrying, what if the crazy person decided to start shooting businessmen next...
I'd play head games with myself. "Silly you,remember, in a city the size of New York, is he really going to shoot just your dad? After all, you thought mom and dad were nutso for not letting you go into the city." I'd laugh to myself and then... it would start all over - oh, the anxiety!
Through the years, many things caused me anxiety and due to my current issues, I deal with a lot of it still.
- bridges (See What Is Gephyrophobia?)
- my former spouse
- certain aspects of being a single mother (See A Single Parent Lesson)
- current medical issues (See Someone Asked Me Today How I Deal With...)
- Horrible events - The Challenger Space Shuttle, The Columbine High School Shooting, 9/11 (I knew many who were there or working there and many firefighters and police), The Blackout of 2003 in New York (including Long Island), Flight 800 that crashed right here on Long Island (I knew many involved - divers, firefighters, morgue employees, funeral homes), The Oklahoma City Bombing, The Boston Marathon Bombing, The Sandy Hook Shooting, when Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island and more.
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