By Brian Howey
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Apr 23, 2013, 02:56 PM EDT
"Brian, we're going to get hit again. It's going to happen. I just hope when it happens, I'm not in Washington."
This came from a high-ranking, former congressional staffer several years after the Sept. 11 attacks. And the worries of this staffer - someone I highly respect - went well beyond an improvised explosive device packed with ball bearings that we twice witnessed on Monday, Patriot's Day, at the Boston Marathon along with the ricin letters sent to President Obama and a U.S. Senator (Note to idiots: All Congressional and White House mail goes through biological screening). The warning was more along the lines of a rogue nuke or a biological attack in the U.S. capital or a major population center.
It's been a little less than 12 years now since we've taken a terror hit on the U.S. homeland. I like to remind the folks who viscerally castigate the federal government that since Sept. 11 this entity has kept America safer than what our expectations might have been on that day, when Hoosiers watched the carnage in New York and Washington and feared a similar fate for the Sears Tower in Chicago. Presidents Bush and Obama and Vice Presidents Cheney and Biden have shepherded a leadership culture that has kept airliners aloft and, until Monday, IEDs off shore.
Indeed, every time I walk into a Colts or Pacers or White Sox game, or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - the most populated annual sporting event on the planet - there is that thought, though not a fear, that if terrorists really wanted to strike fear in the hearts of America, the hit would come in the heartland.
Former Sen. Dick Lugar had conjured images of the "destruction of an American city in our lifetime" in the wake of the domestic terror at Oklahoma City, and even Indianapolis as a potential target. A radial area with Lucas Oil Stadium at the center would include, within a mile or two, the three stadiums, key fiber optics lines, two major east/west and north/south interstate highways, a university and medical research labs, at least one bunkered internet hub (with 10-foot thick walls, I'm told) and one of the major insulin manufacturing sites in the world.
When I was growing up five miles northeast of the Grissom AFB runway, the frequent roars of B-58 Hustler bombers and KC-135 stratotankers over our house were a constant reminder that little Peru, Ind., could be a Cold War collateral site near a bullseye.
But we've watched the threat evolve away from Soviet ICBMs and Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the podium (a vivid childhood image) to rogues like Osama bin Laden dwelling in caves and now, faceless computer programmers who constantly probe our security, financial, and utility infrastructure from Ukraine, Iran, or North Korea.
It's worth repeating a thought spoken by Sen. Dan Coats: In a cyber 9/11 scenario, Americans could wake up some morning and find the TV networks off the air, the banking system debilitated and utilities not functioning.
"You've got people constructing just that," said Coats, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
And the rogues do exist among us. Just last week, the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Bloomington withstood a terror assault after police reported the arrest of an Ellettsville man on preliminary burglary and criminal mischief charges - allegedly destroying equipment and splashing red paint throughout the facility. The Bloomington Herald-Times reported that the man allegedly attributed his actions to his religious beliefs, saying Planned Parenthood employees murder babies.
In our post 9/11 world, Americans have resolved to live their lives, aware of the terror potential, but not living in fear of it. We fill our stadiums, run in and watch our races, and ride the Metro and the South Shore.
Statistically, the chances of experiencing a terror strike are infinitesimal, yet there were 283 Hoosiers running the Boston Marathon, and dozens in the Pentagon and World Trade Center 12 years ago, not to mention the U.S. Capitol that was probably saved by the citizen patriots of Flight 93.
To witness such a thing is about as rare as having a tornado hit your home or knowing someone who was murdered. Yet, I know a dozen or so people whose homes or businesses have been hit by tornadoes and a Rasmussen poll last week reported that 25 percent of us know someone who was murdered.
Yes, it's going to happen. A democracy with the openness we cherish will provide the small portals of vulnerability for the rogues who have given up on debate and persuasion and turned to bombs and germs and paint.
The remarkable element of this week's sad story is that it took a dozen years for us to endure another hit on the homeland.
- Brian Howey publishes online at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.
March 3, 2014
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There was a wide array of reactions to Seattle DB Richard Sherman’s post-game “interview” with Erin Andrews following the Seahawks’ NFC title win over San Francisco.
Mine? Laughter, as the shout-down was the most entertaining thing I saw all day.
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Butler is still a long way from saving its 2013-14 men’s basketball season, but if the Bulldogs turn it around fully and reach the NCAA Tournament, it will have started this past Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
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A fine season for the Indianapolis Colts ended with a whimper Saturday at New England, but in recent team history, it was far from the most disappointing postseason defeat.
January 14, 2014
The Indianapolis Colts’ miraculous 45-44 wild card victory over Kansas City on Saturday ended just after 8 p.m. After leaving Lucas Oil Stadium, it took until around midnight for the pounding in my head to subside.
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December 31, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
Call 911 from the side of the road, and GPS satellites can tell dispatchers exactly where to send help. Airline passengers have access to detailed maps that show exactly where they are during their journey. Hop onto WiFi, and somehow Google knows whether you're logging on from Lima or London, and will give you detailed suggestions about what to eat.
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