2002-05-29 / Editorials


Normal Lives Are Best Defense

Last week we were told, repeatedly, that more attacks by the same people who caused us to redefine the word "hijacking" were imminent and inevitable. There is no escape, several highly placed government officials, including the Vice President, the director of the FBI and the Secretary of Defense..

The problem with these so-called alerts is that, read carefully, they don't tell us anything we didn't already know. Yes, the terrorists will strike again. Yes, they will use whatever means they have at their disposal to cause as much destruction and loss of life as they can. Yes, they have no regard for innocent people. Yes, no one is safe.

Whatever the response the doomsayers expected, we're certain Governor George Pataki didn't deliver. Instead, the governor told New Yorkers, especially those who live in New York City, to go on about their lives and their lawful business. "We cannot allow threats to take away our freedom or our confidence," he declared.

We're certain the governor did not mean for us to become complacent or indifferent to the threat of terrorist attack. Police and law enforcement officials at all levels are taking adequate precautions, as, indeed, they should. Many private citizens are contributing to this effort in small but meaningful ways, one of which is proudly displaying the American flag and another simply paying more attention to what is going on around them. It's important to note, though, that while we're taking nothing for granted here, neither are we willing to surrender to feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness.

We face terrorist acts every day. Last week a young mother in Brooklyn was shot and wounded by a carjacker,. Had the victim not turned to shield her child, the perpetrator--arrested within hours of the incident--would have shot and wounded the child and, being an urban terrorist, would not have cared. A suspect in the murder and wounding of five people in an apartment in the same building occupied by a celebrated Manhattan restaurant assaulted a corrections officer at Rikers Island. A rookie police officer was shot in the arm and hand as she walked on patrol with four colleagues. (The second suspect in the shooting turned himself in last week.)

All these actions were the work of terrorists. The difference between the perpetrators we list here and the fanatics who flew the planes into the World Trade Center and are now the objects of warnings by federal officials is that money, a fix or some sort of mental defect or disease was the motive for the actions we cite. The incidents took place on a one-to-one basis, not a mass scale. The perpetrators were quickly apprehended and will be brought to justice or are on trial at this moment.

We arrest, try and convict criminals every day. This is a fight we can win--are winning. So it is with the larger threat. Governor Pataki's admonition could not have come at a better time. We believe firmly that we cannot allow ourselves to surrender to the defeatism promulgated in some quarters. If we allow vague threats to make us cower in fear the terrorists need not bother to waste time, planning bullets or bombs for us. They will have won. We cannot and will not let that happen.

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