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The Costs of a Tragedy-Free Nation

PERSPECTIVES

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

If the freedom that we enjoy in America must come at a price, then the tragic events of recent weeks have demonstrated just how high that price can be.

The explosion of TWA's Flight 800, coupled with the bomb that ripped through Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, have led to the stark realization that unless Americans are willing to sacrifice a great deal of the liberties they currently take for granted, the United States will always be extremely vulnerable to acts of terror.

America could be considered a terrorist's delight. In New York City alone, there are numerous densely populated areas where an individual could plant a bomb with little or no difficulty. But this unfortunate truth must to some degree be accepted or the result will be a police state that dramatically infringes on the rights of the people.

The latter alternative would lead to horrifying results. Anyone who has taken a New York City subway at rush hour can imagine the havoc that would ensue if every individual who wished to board a train was forced to go through a baggage check. Even taking this type of extreme precaution against terrorism can't prevent those bent on destruction. Israel is ample proof that no matter how tight the level of security in a country is, there is no guarantee that its people are safe.

However, acknowledging that terror-proofing the entire country would be neither practical nor fully successful should not prevent us from taking reasonable measures to protect innocent lives.

Airports, federal buildings and national landmarks all require heightened security because they have been shown to be the likeliest places that terrorists strike.

Few, if any, individuals would mind paying extra for airplane tickets in order for airports to obtain devices capabable of detecting plastic bombs or would mind waiting a little longer for their baggage to be checked. Perhaps such measures could have saved the 230 people who died on Flight 800.

But a line has to be drawn somewhere. The same type of security that is provided at airports or the $273 million that was spent on safeguarding Olympic events could not have been used on Centennial Olympic Park. It was a public area intended to allow even those who could not afford to attend the games to partake in the Olympic festivities.

Although the park has since been reopened, the extra precautions that must now be taken because of the bombing do put a damper on the enjoyment, and serve as a reminder of a senseless act of violence.

While I mourn for those that lost their lives on TWA's Flight 800 and for the victims of the Olympic Park bombing, I am still grateful for the fact that I can pay $1.50 to get on the New York City subway with no questions asked. Sometimes, all we can do is pray that the freedom on which this country prides itself will not be taken advantage of by those with evil intentions.

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