Published On: Tue, Sep 13th, 2011

Legacy of 9/11: Terrorism can occur on the local and global level

By: Douglas Heizer

The run-up to the 10th anniversary this past weekend of the 9/11 attacks gave everyone in America pause to remember that horrible day, and how things have changed – or not changed – in the aftermath.

One thing is certain.  Terrorism can strike in small communities just as easily as it can in large metropolitan areas like New York,Washington, London or Madrid.

Thus, it is both a global as well as a local issue.

For those of us in Boca Raton, the 9/11 anniversary will be a somber one.  But we will also remember what happened within the city of Boca Ratonjust three weeks after those attacks.

 Before we could even grasp the magnitude of what had happened to the United States,Boca Ratonhad to deal with an even more insidious attack – from terror-grade anthrax.

In early October of 2001, a letter laced with the deadly toxin arrived at the headquarters of American Media Inc. at its former headquarters in the Arvida Park of Commerce.  The powdered killer took the life of Bob Stevens, photo editor for the Sun tabloid.  A mailroom worker, Ernesto Blanco ofMiami, was sickened by the powder, but survived.

So here was Boca Raton, a city of maybe 70,000 people at the time, having to deal with terror on two levels.  And what was even worse, many of the men who hijacked the planes on Sept. 11, 2001, actually lived in the area, and used many of the facilities, took flying lessons at local flight schools and walked the same paths we continue to walk every day.

The anthrax attack put newly installed Mayor Steven Abrams to the test, but he kept Boca calm.  He had the backing of two veteran public safety leaders, Police Chief Andrew Scott and Fire Chief Bruce Silk, to keep the city safe.  Together, they worked so well that the Boca model of disaster response has been adopted at dozens of police and fire departments across the nation.  Abrams was even asked to go to Washington to tell his story to national leaders.

In the process, Abrams got to know Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City.  Abrams even became known, at least to those in the media, as the “Rudy Giuliani of the Tropics.”

It will be important this weekend to remember the bravery of the people of New York and Washington, of the men and women of United Flight 93 who stopped the hijackers from using that plane to destroy more Americans.  Those passengers knew they were doomed, but they made their final act a heroic one, putting the plane down in a field in Pennsylvania.  We must remember they did not die in vain, but, rather, showed the brave spirit that isAmerica’s hallmark.

No, the people who died on 9/11 did not lose their lives in vain.  They kindled new patriotism in their fellow men and women.  Remember the wide showing of flags on cars, in windows and on work desks?  We were probably more united than we had been since World War II.

There has been a cost to us beyond the lives given by our fellow Americans.  Daily, we live with the possibility of more terror strikes. We have seen them around the world and in our own nation.  But we have also seen our security people locate and stop would-be killers like the Times Square Bomber or the Underwear Bomber.

We may joke about these poorly planned tries because they didn’t work.  But we must remain vigilant so that nothing approaching the magnitude of 9/11 happens again.

Unfortunately, our lives are on the line every day from despicable enemies who find no fear in death or disgust in the mutilation of our bodies.

We can only hope that we and the world will be here 10 years from now – safe and hopefully more secure — to honor another 9/11 anniversary.

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