New York City is a magical place filled with wonderful museums, a vibrant theater community, and, as the old television show reminded us, “eight million stories in the Naked City.” It’s a tourist delight, a writer's treasure trove – and a terrorist target.
I live outside the city, in a quiet suburb about 20 miles from Times Square. I vividly remember September 11, 2001 – and the consuming fear of not knowing for sure where my husband, loved ones, and friends were during those chaotic hours. This time was different. I didn’t hear about this latest threat until Sunday morning, many hours after the event, but the emotions slipped right back into place.
A quick recap: On Saturday night, someone tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. If the twin towers of the World Trade Center were seen as symbols for America’s wealth, surely Times Square represents the heart of the people of this great city. Walk through the crowded streets that surround this iconic corner of New York, and you see rich and poor, every color of mankind, young, old, tourists and citizens, all intent on soaking in the energy of the city. It is the center of the theater district and on Saturday night, the shows went dark, as audiences were evacuated. The Lion King, the long-running musical made from the Disney cartoon, was the first to cancel the performance. Tickets for this show, a delight for families and especially young children, are still, after all these years in production, in such demand that there is months-long wait before you can purchase an evening of enchanting theater.
Saturday night, Mayor Bloomberg flew back from the annual Correspondents dinner in Washington, DC, where the jokes and the liquor flowed freely, to deal with this latest danger. He said pointedly, “Terrorists around the world feel threatened by the freedoms we have in this country and want to take our freedoms away from us. (That's why) they always focus on the symbol of that freedom, and that is New York City.”
It’s trite, but true, that we can’t let them win. When the lights go out on Broadway, it shutters the freedom of expression that is the hallmark of a free society. It closes the feel-good-musicals that have us humming when we leave the theater – as well as the intense, drama-filled plays that make us think about issues long after the last curtain call.
My suspicion is that this will not be a foreign terrorist plot. I suspect it’s another homegrown thug, like Timothy McVeigh, with an agenda that has no respect for human life. It’s less than two weeks after the anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Homegrown terrorism is, in some ways, harder to stomach than foreign invasions. These are men and women who are permitted to espouse ideas that are an anathema to the very being of our country. But our land thrives because we permit them to speak these hateful thoughts – but they are not permitted to act on them. Your right to speak loathsome concepts ends when you act upon them (or push others to act in your stead).
New York City police understand the constant daily threat that faces this phenomenal city. But in every town, village, and hamlet of our great nation, it’s up to each one of us to help our local law enforcement keep us safe. If you see something, say something. Had a t-shirt vendor in New York City not spoken up on Saturday night, the tragedy that might have ensued is too hard to even contemplate.
The photo at the top of this blog appeared in Life Magazine. It caught a couple in Times Square, celebrating with a kiss the end of World War II. If only this current war on terrorism could have such a definitive ending.
God Bless America.
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