The Subway May Not Be Safe

But Where Is Safe Anymore?

Joanne Tombrakos
4 min readMay 29, 2022

I ride the subway.

I’ve been riding it since I was a kid growing up in the sixties. Even then, when my memories lead me to believe the world was a safer place to live, I was taught to be on high alert. My mother showed me the proper way to hold my handbag and would remind me to always keep it zippered so no one could slip their hand in and steal my wallet. She advised me never to stand too close to the edge of the platform in case someone ran by and tried to push me forward onto the tracks. She raised me to be kind to others but also warned me that not everyone I would encounter would be a nice person so I needed to be aware of my surroundings and use my instincts.

She never warned me about guns.

That was unthinkable then. But then so was the idea that the second amendment, adopted in 1791 when a gun meant a musket and not an AR-15 would later be interpreted to mean that guns were a constitutional right that required no common-sense legislation to meet the demands of modern life.

When I tell people I am taking the subway now, they tell me I am brave.

There are shootings on the subway. It’s not safe.

They’re right. There are people getting shot on the subway. Just last week a man was on his way to brunch on the Q train and was killed by a random shooter with no apparent motive.

But the question I ponder is — where is safe anymore?

In the space of just two weeks, ten people were killed at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, another killed and five wounded at a church in Aliso Viejo, California, and nineteen children and two teachers murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. And those are just the ones that made national headlines.

Grocery stores.



What makes the subway any different?

There is no doubt mental illness contributes to this. What sane person goes into a 4th-grade classroom and shoots and kills two teachers and nineteen children in cold blood?

But mental illness is only part of the problem.

So is hatred and racism fueled by extremists on supposed “news” outlets like Fox and Newsmax and social media platforms driven by algorithms and manipulated by bots.

And so is the lack of responsible, common-sense gun legislation.

We track the purchase of Allegra D but not bullets.

My driver’s license gets scanned every time I purchase a 30-day supply of Allegra D due to federal legislation enacted in 2006. I am prohibited from buying more than 30 days at a time. My usage is being tracked so I don’t buy enough to melt down the active ingredients and turn it into crystal meth.

Common sense would dictate that the same thing should be happening when someone goes to buy ammunition so we can track how much and how often, but common sense is something that seems to be lacking in our elected officials.

I need to pass a test for a driver’s license but not a gun.

If I need to renew that license every few years, why not for a gun?

If I need training in order to fly a plane, why not to fire a gun?

If I need a license to go fishing, why not a gun?

I got a note the other day from a friend overseas.

“My heart breaks for your country, Joanne. Though as a European I just can’t get my head around the fact the USA just won’t do anything about gun control to stop this from happening.”

I can’t either.

In the meantime…

I will ride the subway despite the fact that it may not be safe, despite the fact that I rarely see the police riding the trains and the ones I do see are only at the major stops, usually standing in packs of three and four with at least one with their head in their phone.

I will live my life. I will heed my mother’s advice to be on alert. I will make my voice heard. I will vote and I will encourage everyone to vote out of office anyone who continues to block responsible gun legislation from being enacted.

As Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State, tweeted, “The only thing that can stop a bad politician with a vote is a good citizen with a vote.”

May all the good citizens vote.

Originally published at on May 29, 2022.



Joanne Tombrakos

Calling myself a Storyteller since before it was trendy. I use story to teach, pitch, think and escape. Podcaster. Writer. NYU Prof. Follow@joannetombrakos