In the shadow of terrorism
: Odd, but it was only this morning, as I watched the Olympics, that I remembered the reason People magazine sent me to L.A. as part of the team to cover the Olympics in 1984:
I was the hard news guy in the house that fluff built, having worked on newspapers. And so they sent me in case disaster struck, as it had in Munich in 1972. (I was also assigned to write just-in-case obits of Prince Charles and Diana in case they were killed on their wedding day, which also happened to be our closing day. The fluffier staff members thought this quite ghoulish. It was just news.)
The threat of terrorism in America seemed quite distant then; we had a few contingency plans (it was news to them that if something happens, you should go right to the hospitals) and then we sat out by the pool.
Of course, today, this is more than a threat. It is experience.
Like Jay Rosen in his latest 9/11 post (this is the last time I’ll link to that today), I was struck by Washington Post New York bureau chief Michael Powell’s phrase:
…those of us — myself and his wife, among others — who came within the shadow of the falling towers on Sept. 11 had acquired an intimate view of terror….
An intimate view of terror. That is so right.
So during these games — as on any given random day in New York — that view is in the back of the mind. Happened before. Could happen again. Now we know. I’m relieved that a week of the Olympics have gone by without problems. I pray the next week is the same. I pray the same for the convention in New York and the election and every day after that.
Back in 1984, in America, terrorism was a distant possibility you’d nod at. Today, terrorism is an ever-present fear you live with.