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A Tale Of Two Terrors: Paris And New York

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A Tale Of Two Terrors: Paris And New York


Like most people, I’m thinking of the terrorist trauma in Paris, though with a somewhat different perspective. I was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and my thoughts go in this direction: What is the future of cities in which psychopaths have killed crowds of bystanders?

In New York, the future as we’ve known it so far has been one of glory and growth. In Paris — its post-attack future just a few days old — it’s been a quick return to the previous embrace of culture and camaraderie. The people now thronging the cafes and theaters may be exhibiting more an air of resistance than gaiety, but rest assured that the real enjoyment will take over.

But the aftereffects do not end there. These massacres are not like a wound that eventually heals. They’re more like a cancer that can go into remission for a while and then come back. And these cancers can take on different forms, changing the people in different ways.

The 9/11 attacks in New York were centered on the World Trade Center twin towers, emblems of America’s economic might. They were assaults from above, and the perpetrators were foreigners. Though the weapons were hijacked commercial airliners, the attacks had the feel of a conventional war.

In both cities, it took a while before people felt confident that the onslaught was over. Fourteen years ago, New Yorkers kept looking skyward at every sound of aircraft long after they recognized that the only planes flying over Manhattan were U.S. military.

Manhattan is an island and was eerily cut off from the rest of America. Bridges and tunnels closed. There were no domestic flights, no intercity buses, no Amtrak. For a while, only one or two subway lines were running. Restaurants stayed open, their hardworking staffs at the ready, but only a few stragglers showed up for dinner.

Gradually, all came back to “normal” — more than normal, actually, given today’s congestion, soaring home prices and hyper-expensive eateries without an empty seat.

Although the New York attacks were far grander in scale and horrific imagery, the terror in Paris took on, in some ways, a scarier form. It skirted the national symbols, aiming at places where ordinary people go for fun. These were soft targets, as were the London subway and Madrid commuter railroad, both of which had suffered terrorist bombings.

In New York’s landmark Grand Central Terminal, heavily armed troops patrol the marble floor. The subway lines jammed with people are not so protected. New York would grind to a halt were residents and visitors afraid to ride the subways. And New York police are on alert as the holiday season fills the great stores, cabarets, dance clubs, theaters and surrounding streets with humanity.

We have no idea in which direction the terrorists’ demented imagination will next turn. They seem to value surprise and may afflict smaller cities. In Europe, they already have. They may go after food and water supplies, a scenario the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is already considering.

What we know is they won’t go away any time soon. The Paris attacks were against ordinary people, and the ordinary people have returned to their soft-target hangouts in defiance. Whether they would continue to do so after multiple incidents remains to be seen.

But one would hope the people of New York — or any other American city subjected to terrorist mayhem — would emulate the resilience of Parisians.

America’s city-loving millennials remain untested, but they’re a tough lot. Let’s pray they never have to go through this while having faith they’d do so bravely.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Photo collage via Klovovi and Thomas Hawk

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila November 19, 2015

    Nice title for this article, but the ISIS terror attack threats, or promises, go well beyond Paris and New York. They are promising attacks throughout Europe, some North African countries, and against the USA, not just NYC.

    Whatever their motives for the increased rage and irrationality they are exhibiting, they are likely to get more than they bargained for in the not too distant future. Neither Russia nor France are known for being too subtle when it comes to retaliation. Proportionality for them mean annihilation, and I would not be surprised if we join in. President Hollande’s planned visits to Washington and Moscow are likely to involve finalizing and agreeing on the best course of action to get rid of ISIS as an institution. Needless to say, that will not eliminate the threat of terrorism, but it will send a powerful message to those considering the creation of new Caliphates and terror organizations.

    In the interim, we just witnessed one of those coincidences that just happen to pop up every presidential election year: five “alleged” Syrians with fake Greek passports were arrested in Honduras. The message and objective – validating the GOP claim of terrorist planning to enter the USA via our Southern border – are clear. Almost seems like a sequel to the film released just before the Benghazi attack, and the coincidental appearance of a “Reverend” promising to burn the Qu’ran.

    1. TZToronto November 19, 2015

      Even as long as about ten years ago, about 10% of illegals entering the U.S. from the Mexican border were identified as not being Hispanic. Who were they? Who are they now?

      1. Dominick Vila November 19, 2015

        Many of them were from Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad, and other Caribbean islands.

  2. Bill Thompson November 19, 2015

    Colin Powell’s doctrine of armed conflict, (have a Clear objective and a clear exit strategy culminating in success). The problem at hand is United States is very good at blowing things up but not very good at predicting the outcome. Keep in mind the fight is an ideological one, you can’t blow up an ideology. You will be able to strategically attack training centers in strongholds, but all you will do is drive these people into the shadows. They will quickly reemerge when the pressure is removed. ISIL is hell-bent on creating the new caliphate, An Islamic controlled Middle East consuming all current countries. If the United States in the rest of the world really want to start world war three trying to defeat an ideology we are in for a never ending battle which will require skin in the game from everybody not just the US. Terrorism requires two things terrorists and the terrorized. Cooler heads need to prevail currently the United States is reacting like schoolgirls being chased with BB guns. Home grown terrorists of all walks of life and nationalities are now engaged in the fight, the attacks in France are an example of that. Terrorists from around the world are not taking their orders from one Central point these are ad hoc terrorists. When a terrorist act occurs ISIL stands up And claims responsibility making them look stronger than they actually are. In my opinion if we are going to take on this battle it would be a good idea to re-institute the draft. Induct everyone From the time men and Women graduate high school to the age of 29. You’ll see a lot less arm chair warriors and a lot more thought regarding foreign policy and going into battle.


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