I don’t have nightmares about 9/11. But I do have an ongoing fear that occurs to me occasionally on my daily rides on the PATH train that took me to the World Trade Center that day: I worry about an attack that would flood the tunnels. On a very long list of bad ways to die, that is a leader. Not to come off as too neurotic, but I don’t like heights and thus bridges and I’m not a great swimmer and so though I don’t fear water I know that being plunked into the middle of a river via boat or bridge would not have a happy ending. So getting to work on an island everyday becomes problematic.
Especially today, as The Times reveals a report that says the PATH tunnel system is particularly vulnerable to terrorist attack and flooding.
My first reaction is: Oh, thank you, Times, for revealing our soft underwater belly to the terrorists. My next reaction is: They say the report was — pardon me — leaked because the Port Authority isn’t doing enough to safeguard the tunnels.
The Times says it is withholding details about how attacks could flood the tunnels but then goes right ahead and gives the terrorists the punchline, the worst-case analysis, which is the one they really want: “. . . a bomb that could be easily carried aboard a train could punch a 50-square-foot hole in one side of a tube, possibly breaching both sides of the tunnel. Under that situation, 1.2 million gallons of water a minute could pour into the tunnel, flooding parts of the system in a matter of hours.”
Now I can think about that everytime I ride to work (and I’m damned glad I’m working at home today). As a correspondent and fellow PATH commuter said in email last night: “Jesus Christ. I don’t think the Times means to sound alarmist, but as someone who rides in Hudson River tunnels 2x a day, it’s pretty scary. On the other hand, it’s nothing I don’t already think about twice daily anyway….