The war on terrorism took a frightening turn this month when the first case of Anthrax poisoning was reported at a Florida tabloid through a suspicious piece of mail.
Then it happened at NBC, then Microsoft, ABC and finally the Senate offices. Panic has set into a nation already shaken from September’s attacks.
In the NBC case, “Nightly News” anchorman Tom Brokaw’s assistant was exposed to Anthrax and contracted the less harmful skin form of the disease. The letter containing the Anthrax came through a Trenton, NJ post office. That’s only an hour away from Temple.
It’s only an hour away from Philadelphia, where the weekend was spent in a panic. Possible Anthrax scares and bomb threats were called into the police department. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, 10 suspicious white powders were tested as possible Anthrax.
Experts, before the first case of Anthrax killed the photo editor at The Sun tabloid in Florida, said the bacterium would be hard to use as a biological terrorism agent. And, as a weapon of mass destruction, the experts are probably right. Since the disease can not be spread from person-to-person contact, it isn’t a highly effective weapon.
But with terrorism there isn’t a need for a weapon. Just fear. That was started with the attacks last month. Now fear is there and whoever is doing this now just needs to fuel it further.
The few cases of the actual disease and then some suspicious white powder has done the trick. We’re back to the days of finding ways to “duck and cover.” The videos will soon be out. Jumping under desks, now with gas masks in hand, may once again be taught in schools.
A small amount of sugar, baking soda, baking powder or talcum powder left in a public spot will set people off. They’ll rush for gas masks and moon suits if they have them.
The American people have to somehow stand up to this bio-terrorism with unknown origins. Maybe it’s coming from those responsible for Sept. 11. Maybe it’s some kook in central New Jersey.
It is excusable to refuse to sit next to a spill of white powder on a bus. But running from the bus, fumbling for a cell phone to call the police, FBI and a hospital to get decontaminated, that is when the terrorists win. In the end it turns out to just be spilled salt or something else harmless.
America is in the scariest period of its history since the Cold War. It is the scariest time to be an American since missiles were pointed at us from Cuba. Since the threat of nuclear attacks led many to build bomb shelters and cute films taught us the art of “duck and cover.”
Somehow we have to find a way to not fear the possibility of anthrax or other weapons of bio-terrorism.
The Cold War was a long battle. The war on terrorism may be just as long.
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