TERRE HAUTE —
Mailbox smashing became the weird vandalism of choice around Terre Haute in the 1980s.
One clever guy outfoxed the vandals, though. He placed a small metal mailbox inside a larger metal mailbox, and filled the void between the two with cement. It looked like a normal mailbox. But a country road-roving rapscallion would feel a stinging rebuke when his aluminum baseball bat clanged up against this man’s postal receptacle.
It’s sad to comprehend how Americans’ lifestyles have been altered by rogues.
The days when people left their homes unlocked seems impossible now. In some places, deadbolts aren’t enough; only a home security system offers the necessary protection. Gas stations often require motorists to pay first before pumping; otherwise, a few people will try to drive off without paying. Stores fasten ink-filled, plastic tags to clothes items to deter shoplifters, which, of course, increases honest customers’ costs.
Mistrust has become ingrained in our society.
The most sinister invasions of our day-to-day activities linger from the deeds of terrorists, far transcending those other inconveniences.
The cold face of Tim McVeigh reared up last week on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. MSNBC aired “The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist.” The broadcast featured audiotapes, culled from 45 hours of interviews with McVeigh, conducted by Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel on death row at Terre Haute’s Federal Correctional Complex before McVeigh’s execution in June 2001.
Angry at the U.S. government, McVeigh drove a rented Ryder truck, carrying a bomb, to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. He parked the truck, lit two fuses and ran. A few minutes after 9 a.m., shortly after a day care facility and the federal offices opened, the bomb exploded. One-hundred-sixty-eight people died, including 19 kids under the age of 5. Hundreds more were maimed. Thank goodness, McVeigh was caught and faced justice.
On the tapes, McVeigh chillingly and remorselessly told victims’ families to “get over it.” He said, “You’re not the first mother to lose a kid. You’re not the first grandparent to lose a granddaughter or grandson.”
His heartless rationalizations were nauseating. His brazen, diabolical, anything-goes tactics caused changes in access to America’s federal buildings, among other things.
In the past 15 years, new structures — including the federal courthouse on Ohio Street — must meet stringent security standards.
It’s farther off the road than the old building at Seventh and Cherry streets, with fewer public entrances. As a spokesman for the U.S. General Services Administration told the Tribune-Star in 2008, “Since Oklahoma City, one of the things that have been emphasized in new courthouse construction, even leased, is a separate circulation system for the public, judges and defendants in criminal cases so that they don’t have to travel the same hallways or elevators. That is an additional expense that courthouses 50 years ago didn’t have to worry about.”
The potential threats exposed by other terrorist acts have forced Americans to absorb additional disruptions.
A self-proclaimed Al Qaeda member, Richard Reid, tried to detonate a bomb in his shoe aboard a flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001, three months after the catastrophic 9/11 attacks. Passengers and flight attendants subdued Reid, foiling his plot. Airport security hasn’t been the same since.
“How many billions of shoes have been taken off at airports?” said Mark Hamm, professor of criminology at Indiana State University and author of “Terrorism As Crime: From Oklahoma City to Al Qaeda and Beyond.” “In what the citizens have to do to participate in the war on terrorism, [Reid’s attempt] may have had more of an effect than 9/11.”
The simultaneous Al Qaeda truck bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 4,000. As a result, American embassies abroad are “impenetrable now,” Hamm said, referring to physical barriers in place. “Before, we never thought about that.”
A foiled airline bombing attempt in 2006, involving a mixture of sports drinks and explosive materials, caused airlines to prohibit passengers from carrying on liquids in common containers. Last Christmas, a Nigerian man intended to blow up a plane over Detroit with explosives sewn into his underwear, but failed. Since then, Hamm knows of a foreign student studying in America who’s had to undergo intensive searches while trying to fly to the United States — an experience that changed the young person’s typically easygoing demeanor.
Also in the wake of that Christmas incident, the Transportation Safety Administration plans to increase the number of airport full-body scanners by 500 this year, another 500 in 2011 and have 1,800 in use by 2014. Privacy and civil rights groups are challenging that practice. Nonetheless, a January poll by TripAdvisor, a travel advice service, showed that 70 percent of travelers favor enhanced security screenings, and 35 percent would back a ban on all carry-on luggage if it made flights more secure.
Even if it means forcing an 80-year-old woman to remove her shoes, that sort of “anti-terrorism theater” eases some people’s minds. “The more of these precautions we see, the safer we feel,” Hamm said.
The other shoe, so to speak, always seems to drop, though. Hamm saw a recent report of a suspected Al Qaeda operative found with a bomb hidden in his rectal cavity. “I saw that and said, ‘Whoa, we’ve turned a corner there,’” Hamm recalled. So what’s next — full body cavity searches?
Lord, help us.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Bennett: McVeigh tapes remind us how terrorist acts have forced Americans to absorb additional disruptions
TERRE HAUTE —
Mailbox smashing became the weird vandalism of choice around Terre Haute in the 1980s.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
Reaching the Wabash: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
MARK BENNETT: We are Hauteans (ho-shuns)
I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- Reaching the Wabash: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river