Terror warnings need maternal feelings

By Jane Flanagan

We need mothers somewhere behind the lectern of terror warnings.

Last Sunday, after a phone call from a relative alerted me to the dire threats, I turned on the television. Mayor Bloomberg popped up. I felt better. “Okay, our mayor is going to speak to me.”

But as I turned up the sound I felt more frightened, not less. His tone was belligerent. While it’s an understandably defensive stance – he was talking to hard-hitting reporters – it was not a comforting one.

For he was also talking to me. I’m a mother with a young child and we were two blocks away from the Twin Towers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. So, at times like these, belligerence will not cut it. It might be a reasonable tone for a man who feels powerless to take, but it’s not effective.

Because this past week I have been ridden with anxiety.

The mayor went on to advise me to go work, despite the threats. And, lucky for him, most people did just that. The Times even reported that New Yorkers apparently are less anxious now about terror warnings. They have become used to them, was the gist. Even employees at the targeted buildings feel that way, according to The Times’ piece. That’s admirable fortitude. But I don’t have it.

But then my office building is not the source of my anxiety. My home is. I live in Battery Park City. While I walk a dozen blocks north to work, my son stays right here. And I mean right here. His babysitter will no longer be taking him to our local Borders, which is in the Financial District, or traversing along the target zone to the Seaport. Thank God it’s summer. His school is three blocks from the Stock Exchange.

So, I feel that among the people whispering in Mayor Bloomberg’s ear should be a mother: “Come up with a tone that strikes a balance between leadership, warmth and strength,” she might say. “These people are terrified. Your words are as important as those of F.D.R. during W.W. II. Certainly to New Yorkers they are.”

She might console him by saying that she understands he feels powerless. But he’s not alone. There are lots of men standing behind lecterns these days who are powerless.

And that’s the real rub. This week was filled with nuttiness. Monday I was terrified; Tuesday pacified; Wednesday confused and so terrified again.

Tuesday, if you recall, was the day we were told that the information on terror targets was old, and so, presumably there was no imminent threat. But on Wednesday we were told, “Oh no, the threat is real.” The old information, apparently, was just supporting documentation. There is NEW information and the potential attack is on.

It has taken me two extra hours to get out the door this week to go to work. I couldn’t manage to take a step until I read every inch of the Times coverage. I had to discern for myself whether I thought it was okay to leave my child or not.

That’s a helluva way to live.

But unless I move to Missouri, I will probably be living this way for awhile. At least until the men standing behind the lecterns can come up with something better than scaring the Be-Jesus out of me.

Among the nuttiness this week was the simmering question whether these terror warnings were tied in any way to the campaign. It’s a cynical thought if there ever was one. But after the events of the past few years perhaps anything is possible. Still, the question whether it’s a political ploy is not the one pressing me. It’s this:

“How are these men going to protect us?”


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