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Wake Up! It’s the War on Terror

bombLast night the “war on terror” woke me up.  Woke me up and made me evacuate my building, actually.  Woke me up, made me wake up my sleeping children and get them dressed, and then evacuate my building.

Seems a cautious Con Ed worker (perhaps with visions of a segment on the morning talk shows?) saw a suspicious car parked in front of the Con Ed building and called the police to report a possible car bomb. Bomb squads were called in, the car was examined (car windows were smashed) and – several hours after all this police action began—the decision was made to evacuate surrounding buildings.  Why it took two hours to decide we were in danger, I’m not sure, but there it was, 12:30 at night, with the fire alarm going off in our building and our neighbor calling to say that in fact, no, this was not a joke, we did need to rouse the boys and get out.

We live in an NYU building, so when we shuffled down to the street, we were told to go to another NYU building that had apparently been deemed out of bomb radius, if the car were in fact a bomb.  We made the boys comfortable in our make-shift bomb shelter (a TV lounge in the building) and tried to figure out what the hell was happening: apparently this car, a 1991 Cutlass (suspicious looking under the best of circumstances) had gas cans in the back seat, which in these tense post-Times-Square days, must mean a bomb.

Couldn’t possibly have meant that the driver of the car was just at the Buzzcocks show at Irving Plaza, reliving the glory days of punk rock, could it?

Which, in fact, is exactly what it was.  No bomb, no terrorist, not even stupid kids dicking around with explosives. Just a guy who works as a landscaper and keeps gas cans in his car so he can put gas in the lawnmower—and who had the misfortune to park on the wrong block. And who is now the proud owner of a 1991 Cutlass with blown-out windows, courtesy of the police who wanted to scan the car’s interior.

So Mr. 1991 Cutlass was unlucky, but for the rest of us, it wasn’t that bad. No real bomb, just a real scare and a seriously real lack of sleep.  But what must it be like to live in (fill in name of just about any country in the world here) and have bombs be a regular part of your existence?

Today, as Liam and I walked to school, bleary-eyed and groggy, he said “you know, mommy, that was a little scary last night.”  And it was scary, but for more reasons than he knows. Scary for the obvious reason: a fucking car bomb across the street from my apartment

But also because it means that someone saw something innocent (a beat-up old car with a gas can in the back) and assumed the worst: assumed guilt, assumed malice. And isn’t that scarier still?

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One Response to Wake Up! It’s the War on Terror

  1. Dick Horwich May 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    A great blog! It describes a dilemma we all face. A couple of years ago I was on the Hampton Jitney bound for NYC, and as we passed through the Midtown Tunnel, the man in the seat ahead of me — Arabic in appearance — took out a movie camera and began filming. It occurred to me to dial 911 and have the police waiting at our first stop, but I did nothing. Partly ennui, partly not wanting to get involved, partly a revulsion against functioning as an unpaid spy. Well, no one has blown the tunnel up — yet.

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