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.
Across the ocean a madman talks about sending ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads our way. We only have to look at New York’s skyline to be reminded of what can happen when our guard is down. If you need a real jolt awake, look at the pictures of the wounded from the Boston marathon. Each one is a bloody warning that is as clear as possible – we can never leave our guards down because this is not over. I hate to break this to you, but it will never be over. Ever!
In World War II America and its allies defeated an unthinkable evil; however, that was a different kind of war. We defeated countries, signed treaties, and then we moved forward. Here we fight a war against a shadow enemy with no nation’s flag flying that can be lowered in defeat. The warriors here are not wearing uniforms and are not pledging allegiance to anyone or thing but terror. That is why terrorism is the most pernicious and evasive enemy we have ever faced. As long as there are terrorists willing to perpetrate this war, it will never be over.
So now we are vigilant again. As New Yorkers we have been taught a horrific lesson and now we have to relearn it after Boston. We can stand with our sister city in grief, offer it support, and remind people elsewhere that there is no getting over it. This kind of thing is with you forever, so it is best to face it now rather than avoiding things. Yes, we all must move on with our lives, but in doing so we can never be the same again.
Photo credits: FBI – frrole.com; E Train – wkikpedia.com; boston wounded-businessinsider.com