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Boston Marathon Attack – A New Vigilance Most Needed

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As you read about the investigation into the bombings at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, you know they are going to get the perpetrators. The FBI and state and local authorities are devoting endless hours to the investigation, and though some reports were coming out that a suspect had been arrested (wishful thinking on everyone’s part no doubt), it is inevitable that soon someone will be in custody.

One thing people must think about that they don’t usually do as they go about their busy days – imagine how many of these attacks have been avoided because of the work of the FBI and other intelligence agencies and law enforcement? There are the ones we know about and the ones we will never know, and that is why the “homeland” has been relatively secure since September 11, 2001.

As a New Yorker who rides mass transit, in the days after 9/11 I was in awe of how security came into place and how it effectively locked down my city. Yes, we were all inconvenienced back then: trains were slower, buses and trucks were stopped at the tunnels, and there were troops obvious everywhere, but especially in Penn Station and Grand Central Station with their bomb sniffing dogs. I lost people on 9/11 and understood why this had to happen, appreciating the heightened security; in fact, I kept thinking, too bad this all wasn’t in place before the attacks.

I recall one time riding on the E train and coming in to the last stop (World Trade Center) in lower Manhattan. I was putting all the papers I had been reading back into my briefcase, and when I looked up I noticed I was the only one left in the car and saw a backpack under a seat. Now this was about a year after 9/11, and I started getting all sorts of ideas. I also recalled Mayor Guiliani saying that ordinary citizens had to be vigilant. When I got off the train there I told the conductor about the backpack, who got on his walkie-talkie. Within less than a minute, there were transit cops descending onto the platform and rushing into the car. I was seriously impressed with that response. Late for an appointment, I went upstairs feeling that my city had things covered.

Now all these years later, before the Boston attack, people were falling into complacency and forgetting things. I still walk the streets looking up nervously. You don’t lose a family member and friends in a tall building and not remember. I honestly think about 9/11 every day; I have no choice in the matter. I keep it mostly to myself because, quite honestly, most people say, “Get over it!” and no, they are not being inconsiderate; they are just uncomfortable with the subject and want to move on with their lives. While this is understandable, it could also be extremely dangerous.

The Boston Marathon attack is a slap in the face to a sleepy-headed America. We were slipping perhaps, thinking that we were invulnerable again. We can never fall into that complacency again, that isolationist notion that we are safe in the homeland. We should have been more vigilant all along, but time causes people to forget, to willfully ignore the signs, and sometimes let wishful thinking that we’re safe get the better of them.

New Yorkers were shaken by what happened in Boston. Now our city is locking down more tightly again. Whether or not this bothers you will depend on your thought process. I keep thinking about that backpack on the train, and how many more backpacks are being left unattended all over the country. If we choose to ignore them and put our heads in the sand, it’s very likely we are going to regret it.

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.