Terrorism & Schools: Vol. 38
SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 38
“We are at war.” With these ominous words, President Bush addressed the nation about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001in New York and Washington. Since that time, the American people, the military and the governments of this world have rallied to the cause. State Governors and the President have activated the National Guard and the Reserve Armed Forces to patrol our skies, airports, post offices, bridges and nuclear power plants. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in this effort. The burning question in many minds is, “What about our schools?”
Examine, if you will, the targets of the terrorists. They were highly visible, well known symbols of America’s financial and military might. The US mail has been attacked with germ warfare because it is a symbol of the most powerful nation ever on earth. What else must rank high on the list of symbols of the core values of America? Our schools must be on such a list. We value education so highly that we make it mandatory. Whether public, private or at-home, virtually every person under the age of 18 is in a school in this country. No other nation makes such a claim. Who fills these schools everyday? Our most innocent, most vulnerable, most cherished of all our people. They are our children, our future. What have we done to protect them?
It would be great to report that our Federal Government has committed troops, materials and/or money to insure the safety of our schools. Unfortunately that cannot be reported with honesty and candor. We who work in this arena must become vocal enough that our political leaders will hear us and respond. Our schools have been subjected to internal terrorism for the past decade with multiple school shootings. What devastation these have brought to what should be the safest of all places. Imagine the effect of an outside terrorist attack against just one school anywhere in America. Can it happen? Obviously the answer is “Yes.” Will it happen? This is too frightening to allow ourselves to consider. But we must.
|Our most innocent, most vulnerable, most cherished of all our people. They are our children, our future.
What have we done to protect them?
The first step in understanding this menace is to define it. Forget, for a moment, the definitions of terrorism espoused by the FBI, CIA and each branch of the military. Terrorism, in its simplest terms, is the use of terror (excessive fear, panic) with or without any other goals attached to it. In the case of organized terrorism, as occurred on September 11, there was no military goal. The goal was to:
- Introduce the American public to terror
- Strike down symbols of America’s might
- Inflict the maximum number of casualties with a minimum expenditure of resources
- Cause the American people to change our way of life
They have succeeded. Since the September 11 attacks, America has been under constant terrorist threats with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The word “anthrax” is now in everyone’s vocabulary.
The next step in understanding terrorism is to be aware of its methodology. There are two basic principles, the unexpected and the common place. No one ever thought of an airplane as a guided missile loaded with thousands of pounds of explosive, flammable cargo. The terrorists did. They tried several years earlier to bring down the world trade center towers with a truck bomb. They used the common place rental truck available in every city and fertilizer available in general merchandise stores everywhere. They learned that they would need more explosive power and a fire to knock down that target. In their way of thinking, an airplane fueled for a long flight would provide exactly what they needed. To most Americans this was an unexpected delivery system and was unnoticed because it was so common place. Anthrax is a deadly disease that has secretaries in the smallest towns opening mail with latex gloves. Anthrax has been known as a weapon for many years, but most experts and late-night talk show guests believed the delivery system would be airplanes or water supplies. The mail was unexpected and obviously common place. The challenge is to expect the unexpected and to be aware of the potential in common place things and activities around us.
There is much restraint in this article as there is no desire to give the terrorists ideas that they have not already thought about. But we should raise our own level of awareness when it comes to schools. Here are some things to think about:
- Almost every child in America eats a meal at school every day.
- Every Friday night most schools have some type of athletic event.
- Schools regularly sponsor field trips.
- Millions of kids ride school buses every day.
- There are vending machines everywhere.
Without dwelling on this issue to the point of panic or depression, consider this: The terrorists just happened to pick airplanes, they just happened to pick New York and Washington, they just happened to choose anthrax, they just happened to use a white powder. What if they just happen to choose your school? What has been done to make them choose an easier target?
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