I'm fine with sacrificing my privacy for New York's safety

Story highlights

  • Elisabeth Mandel: Seeing people outside running after Chelsea bombing reminded me of the images I had seen of 9/11
  • We are all potential reporters, and the information we can provide could be helpful, she says

Elisabeth Mandel is a New York licensed marriage and family therapist and maintains a private practice in midtown Manhattan where she treats individuals, couples and families. She has appeared as a relationship consultant on CNN, Fox News, WABC and CBS Sports Radio. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN)There can be a certain comfort in knowing you're being watched, because you know that means the bad guys are probably being watched, too. That's why I am fine sacrificing my privacy for the safety of New York. Manhattan is my home, and the truth is these days that privacy is a privilege.

I had felt that even before what happened in New York and New Jersey on Saturday, the bombings that took place. And before police arrested a suspect Monday who is believed to have been caught on camera at the location of both of the explosive devices that were planted in Chelsea.
Elisabeth Mandel
Which is also my home.
    I've never experienced anything like this. You develop a narcissistic streak: Why me? Why my neighborhood? In a strange way, it makes you feel special. Living close to the crime scene is like something from a movie. But the important thing is how you channel that feeling.
    I was impressed with the immediacy of emergency responders. The police showed up within seconds. Soon after, an alarm went off on my phone warning me not to go near the window because another suspicious package had been found on 27th Street.
    As a relationship therapist I teach people stress management skills. Finding out, for example, that your spouse has been cheating is shocking, disorienting and unbelievable. Helping people through those kinds of emotional shocks as part of my job helps prepare me to handle other crises. But like everyone faced suddenly with disorientating news, I had questions running through my head: Should we leave the city? Can we leave the city? Can we even leave our homes?
    Explosion rocks New York's Chelsea neighborhood
    Explosion rocks New York's Chelsea neighborhood


      Explosion rocks New York's Chelsea neighborhood


    Explosion rocks New York's Chelsea neighborhood 01:03
    When you hear an explosion -- and the explosion Saturday night sounded huge -- your brain begins a cognitive processing. First you interpret what you hear as something realistic. Then you test your hypothesis, like when I looked out the window and saw people running. Then your mind shifts to the potential worst case scenario and your survival instinct kicks in.
    As I was processing what was going on, I found myself unable to decide whether to stay glued to the TV or my window -- torn between two ways of understanding what was going on. Seeing people outside running reminded me of the images I had seen of 9/11 on TV only a week earlier; with memorial services having only just taken place, terrorism still loomed large in my mind.
    Of course, in New York, there are reminders of the threat all the time. All over the subways are signs that read, "If you see something, say something." These days, many people also turn to social media as a direct source of news. Indeed, it has become, "If you see something, tweet something." People click, people send.
    So I did, too.
    After I posted my pictures I received tweets from all over the world asking if I was OK, and telling me to be safe. It was reassuring, but also reminded me of something else: We all have a part to play in keeping each other safe. Just like those subway posters remind us.
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    We don't necessarily have to view coverage of disasters as exploitation. We are all potential reporters, armed with camera phones, and the information we can provide with them could be helpful. There is a plethora of information out there that can be shared, and which the press can then organize and verify. You never know what you might find in a picture or an image; we were reminded of that again on Monday.
    When something like Saturday's attack happens, it can be easy to indulge the feelings of helplessness by staying glued to the TV. But this can make anxiety worse. You think you are getting what you need by loading up on more information, but what you are doing is still passive. I thought tweeting pictures would be a more proactive approach to tolerating the distress of what was going on in the neighborhood, and I'm glad I did. I reminded myself that we should not live in fear. That we need to live with strength, purpose and confidence.
    Waking up was like the morning after a snowstorm. There is a calm and peaceful energy, but then it hits you that there will be consequences, and that we cannot ever be off our guard.
    There is a perpetual spotlight on Manhattan. We have a reputation to protect as a prepared victim. Resilience buffers us against the pain. But as New Yorkers say to themselves not again, not us, and as the realization sinks in again that terror never sleeps, we should remember that we aren't powerless.