Fear, Acts of War And Technology's Shortcomings

Tragedy's Aftermath: Uniting As Americans

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There are two things I can remember as a first-grader in the Boston school system in 1960: the crush I had on Mary Ann McGilvy and the air-raid drills we had on a regular basis.

ROBERT FALETRA Can be reached at (516) 733-8612 or via e-mail at rfaletra@cmp.com.

The drills, which the teacher would announce ahead of time, required all of us to crawl under our desk, clasp our hands behind our head and tuck our face between our knees while a siren sang in the background.

It was part of growing up during the Cold War. It was also accompanied by the occasional installation of a backyard bomb shelter like the one up the street from me.

Until last week, I thought this was in my past and something our children would never have to experience.

It may not have sunk in yet, but the events of last week have changed all of our lives. As much as I love technology and how it has improved our lives, it also has, in some cases, failed us miserably.

I spent last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in New York and the rest of the week in Boston.

Two cities that have been very closely tied together in so many ways both in partnerships and sports rivalries are now closely tied in horrendous tragedy. Both cities are still in shock, but both will become angry soon enough.

Make no mistake, we are heading back to the 1950s and '60s. Our children are already frightened but don't really know what they are frightened of.

'Air-raid drills and bomb shelters were part of growing up during the Cold War. Until last week, I thought they were in my past and something our children would never have to experience.'

The Ronald Reagan presidency saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and an end to the Cold War. After that, it seems we all slipped into a world of complacency.

It was a world in which we believed technology would continue to change our lives for the better. It was a world in which we thought technology could reduce our expenditures on the military.

It was a world in which we thought technology could reduce our dependence on the employment of spies.

We now need to realize that technology is only as good as those who use it, and there are some things that only people can accomplish. And, by the way, technology can and will be used against us.

The No. 1 reason why the federal government exists is to protect us. Everything else is secondary.

Technology is a small piece of the government's tool set. Those of us who fly on a regular basis have long felt that airport security is a joke, largely because of the relaxed attitude in which those charged with screening us went about their jobs. But we were too busy and caught up in the world of high-tech to think much about it. In fact, we would get annoyed if we were asked to open our briefcase for inspection. God forbid that one-minute delay might slow us down and require that we head to the airport earlier. We are all thinking about it now.

But we also need to remember that the terrorists who attacked our way of life last week want to disrupt our economy on a permanent basis. If we lose too much focus on our everyday lives and duties, they will have won.

In many ways, this tragedy will move us to do what we should have done long ago. Unite as Americans. We should all hope that whether we see ourselves as republicans, democrats, conservatives or liberals, we are united in the lengthy war on terrorism we are about to embark on.

We have the resolve to win. Technology will have to be used wisely as part of our strategy, and hopefully it will speed the time to completion. But make no mistake, our lives have been forever changed.

Make something happen. I can be reached at (516) 733-8612 or via e-mail at rfaletra @cmp.com.


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