Jeff Pearlman

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One legacy of 9/11

8

So Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, has been catching a lot of heat for saying “the system worked” after a would-be terrorist was stopped from blowing up an airplane a few days ago. And, indeed, she deserves the flogging. If “the system worked” means you got very, very, very lucky, well, the system worked.

Truth be told, despite millions upon millions of dollars being poured into airline safety measures after 9/11, we still seem wide open to some guy blowing up a plane with a device stashed in his undies. In fact, if there’s one thing we were sadly reminded of last week, it’s that the skies are not 100 percent safe; that the government can’t fully protect us; that there will be other terrorist attacks, that people will probably die.

However, another legacy exists, too. And it’s an important one.

Before 9/11, people occasionally hijacked airlines. They waited until the plane was in the sky, screamed “Bomb!” and told everyone to remain calm; that they were taking the plane to [FILL IN THE COUNTRY] until [FILL IN THE GOVERNMENT] delivers either some political prisoner or lots of money. Everyone sat and waited, scared, concerned, but, ultimately, believing they would get out alive. And usually, it’s safe to say, they would.

Those days are over. Think of the shoe bomber. Think of a few days ago. From now on, if a group of people try and hijack/blow up an airplane, they will get the living s*** kicked out of them. Maybe the plane will still go down, maybe it won’t. But there are no more free lunches for terrorists. You so much as pull out a wire with a beeping sound, someone in a neighboring seat will club you with his forearm.

In other words, while it’s important to have the government protect us, perhaps it’s most important to have, well, us protect us.

Word.

  • Well put, Jeff. Terrorists are tools.

  • BK

    so its smart to spend 50 billion on terrible security if the only real security is the passengers themselves?

  • Michael Duca

    One rather disappointing thing in this whole mess is that nobody has focused on the fact that the terrorist got on 2 planes NOT IN THE U.S. with the explosives in his clothing. It’s somewhat unreasonable to expect us to have bomb-deterrent machinery at every airport that can access the US, don’t you think? Don’t other countries have some level of sovereignty over their facilities? And, do we have the right, as the biggest swinging dicks on the globe, to demand that they install equipment to protect us?

    The system failed, but primarily in that the guy’s father warned the embassy, and the embassy staff and on down the line did not revoke his multiple-entry visa. That is where we should concentrate the scrutiny, at least to begin with. Until then, if flying home from overseas makes you nervous, route yourself through Tel Aviv and fly home on El Al. They take every known precaution available. And it only costs an extra two hours and about 10% on your ticket price.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life