What’s your Greatest Fear

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"What's your Greatest Fear"
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Fear comes in many shapes and sizes. What I'm afraid of is the reckless nature of human beings. Take a good look at your newspaper and what's on television. What do you see? I see death, and much of it is usually preventable or completely without provocation. There are car accidents, plane crashes, buses going off the sides of mountains, etc. Even more terrifying is the spontaneous and illogical attacks that originate from other people. Who in their right mind wouldn't be afraid of these things?

In Toronto, Canada, an unexpected tragedy occurred on September 26, 1997 in a downtown subway station. A 23 year-old woman named Charlene Minkowski was patiently waiting to board an incoming train, when a man she had never met before named Herbert Cheong pushed her off the platform. She died a few hours later and Cheong told the police he had been kicked out of a rooming house earlier that morning. A diagnosed schizophrenic who had suffered from mental illness for many years, Cheong waited for a quarter of an hour inside the station until randomly choosing Minkowski as his victim. He was angry about being kicked out of his room, so just to make himself feel better he killed an innocent woman. Minkowski had a family and a job as a law clerk.

For months after this incident I was hesitant to use the subway, and when I finally started using it again I made sure to stand up against the wall before the train arrived. Charlene Minkowski and I were the same age, and although I hadn't met her before that autumn day I was mourning her death. What's even more unsettling is that the legal system goes to great lengths to protect men like Herbert Cheong; the most familiar defense was that he couldn't be held accountable for his actions because of his mental condition. Fortunately for Cheong and the people of Toronto, that is not the case. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Humans are responsible for the destruction of the environment, the depletion of numerous plant and animal species, and are the only group of beings on Earth that kill members of their own kind. Things haven't changed since Ancient Rome, the Crusades and the wars of the 20th century. The only difference is that our weapons are more advanced. Although it was many years ago I can still recall this story. Who you are or what you're doing is irrelevant. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time your life can end.

More about this author: Scott Hayden

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