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
MARK BENNETT: Hall of Memories: Names, images of baseball greats trigger connections to our own past
Baseball Hall of Famers are just people. Totally human. Still, for Americans who follow the national pastime, those players represent a nostalgic connection to summers gone by.
MARK BENNETT: Former Terre Hautean Jim Lovell stood ready as Neil Armstrong’s backup on Apollo 11
The words “Apollo 11” stir optimism in me.
I was an elementary school kid growing up in Vigo County when Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon on July 20, 1969. So much seemed possible
MARK BENNETT: Dad-to-dad advice
Giving unsolicited advice is like offering somebody else your toothbrush, because it’s worked so well for you.
MARK BENNETT: The road ahead
An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.
MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’
Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds
Transformative changes: Five ways to strengthen Terre Haute’s ‘festival park’
Without realizing it, the crowds walking through Fairbanks Park during this week’s Banks of the Wabash Festival are paying tribute to two eras of visionaries.
MARK BENNETT: Mother of all missed opportunities
So often, we entrust mothers with so much. They draw duty as mediators when there’s a problem at school, healers when pain hits, and self-sacrificers willing to put the needs of their families ahead of their own. Not perfect, but perfectly equipped, thank God, to be the glue that holds things together. Mother’s Day offers an ideal moment to remember those qualities.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
MARK BENNETT: Telling a difficult story
Arthur Feinsod struggled to vocalize lines from his own play, “Coming to See Aunt Sophie.”
MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy
Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.
MARK BENNETT: Dues Paid, change under way
In the 1940s, Dorothy Jerse sat in a University of Illinois accounting class, listening to a guest speaker.
MARK BENNETT: All aboard!
Find me a George Mason University basketball T-shirt in Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: 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.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Hall of Memories: Names, images of baseball greats trigger connections to our own past