Threats such as ebola and terrorism are especially anxiety-provoking since we humans are well aware of our own mortality. Indeed, as children, the death of a friend or family member is often the event that puts an end to our innocent, fantasized image of the world.
Throughout the remainder of our lives, the deaths of loved ones, acquaintances and celebrities mark the course of our journey; though we know that our own life will end, how and when remains a mystery. Many humans soothe their anxiety by leaning on religious faith and its promise of eternal life. Others, less inclined toward mysticism, embrace fatalism or commit themselves to a lifestyle that, based on their knowledge or experience, will offer the best chance of a long, productive life.
Regardless of how we approach this natural fear, the deaths of others have a significant impact on our life and keep us attuned to our own mortality. Those of us with friends or family members who died at a young age are perhaps more sanguine about the future, thankful for the many years that we have enjoyed and less stressed by the prospect of a sudden, random demise. As a natural species, our bodies evolved to survive long enough to reproduce and raise our young; as intelligent creatures, we hope and plan for a long, rewarding life while knowing it could end tomorrow.