The bombings at the Boston Marathon are a stark reminder of the vulnerability of the world’s strongest nation.
No matter how well-armed the United States is, no matter how tight the security, terrorists can find ways to deliver their deadly message.
Every time Americans see breaking television footage of a major fire or plane crash or explosion, the specter of 9/11 returns. Those terror attacks, which killed thousands, tore apart our national sense of power and security.
They also ushered in a new America — one where airport scanning is routine and bag checks take place everywhere from the movies in your hometown theater to sporting events in major cities.
In the 12 years that have passed since the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the nation has shifted between unifying patriotism and partisan division, between gratitude for protective measures to exasperation over the inconveniences, between healing and a thirst for revenge.
As 9/11 fades further into the past, people have questioned whether all the security measures are necessary. The Boston bombings — whether found to be domestic or foreign terrorism — have provided a horrifying answer. Despite heightened security measures, three are dead and more than 170 injured.
President Obama said those responsible for the attack will be brought to justice. But any action we can take — military or diplomatic — will not prevent someone else with hatred toward the United States from plotting to murder innocents and disrupt life. That, sadly, is the reality of the world we live in now.
What we can do is be patient and even grateful for the reasonable intrusions we must endure to enhance the security of people at public events. That is not an endorsement of measures that overstep our rights to privacy. The freedoms on which our nation was founded are what set America apart, what give us our greatness — and they can’t be compromised.
But we can face public security measures with the realization that they are in place to protect everyone. Instead of grumbling about the lines at airports and border crossings, we can appreciate the screenings done by Transportation Security Administration personnel and Customs and Border Protection officers.
We can report unattended packages and thank the screeners who check our bags and backpacks on the way into concerts, ballgames, theme parks and other places where people gather.
Our gratitude and cooperation should extend to first-responders, who rush not away from disaster but toward it. Those who are paid to deal with destruction, injuries and death and those who volunteer all risk their own safety, peace and well-being to try to bring order to chaos.
The ghosts of 9/11 will always haunt us, just as the Depression and world wars affected earlier generations. But we can resist intimidation and find some peace with the measures that must be taken to protect us.