May 25th, 2017

Reed: Manchester, could it happen here?

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Billy Reed

Executive Editor 

Reed: Manchester, could it happen here?
Billy Reed goes over the possibility of a terrible tragedy like Manchester possibly happening here in the US / photo from LCSN

It’s always the same. Horror and shock followed by revulsion and anger. And then hopelessness and confusion. And, finally, the unthinkable: Could it happen here?

At the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, a suicide bomber killed 22 people, at least one as young as eight, and injured scores more. There is no making sense of it. There never is. And that's what is scariest of all.

Nobody knows the workings of a mind so evil and filled with hatred. It is beyond our comprehension. All we know is that they live among us, these demented souls, and they are waiting for the right time, the right place, the right opportunity.

Since 9/11, America has intensified its security. We’ve had no mass murders at any of our concerts, games, or other major events. But it would be a horrible mistake to become complacent because America, after all, is the place that terrorists seem to hate the most.

The truth is, no place is safe anymore. Here in America, we’ve seen mass killings in churches, schools, and shopping malls. So far heavy security has protected us at concerts, games, and major events. But if a terrorist who has no regard for human life, including his own, wants to use one of those events to spread his evil, all the metal detectors in the world aren’t going to stop him.

In his early 1970s novel “Black Sunday,” the novelist Thomas Harris was the first to suggest the possibility of carnage at a major sporting event. He had terrorists commandeer a blimp with the intent of bombing the Super Bowl. To this day, his novel remains a cautionary tale.

Anytime a tragedy like Manchester happens, world leaders pledge prayers and sympathy for the victims. They repeat their outrage and vow to rid the world of terrorism. But, sadly, nothing even seems to happen, at least partly because terrorist groups like ISIS own no territory, have no government, and are embedded in the culture of so many countries.

They are phantom assassins, cowardly striking defenseless victims at the most unexpected times and places. What threat did the kids at the Ariana Grande concert pose to anyone? They were just out for some good music and good times. Why them? Why, why, why?

Obviously, action is necessary. But what form should it take? Who should lead it? Is it really possible to identify and apprehend the murderers before they do their evil deeds? Time and again, the terrorists have lived in quiet neighborhoods and been described as as being “normal” citizens. How can we stop them if we don’t recognize them when they live next door?

As is the case with so many cowards, they use women and children as shields against bombing and counter-attacks. They have no conscience and they use ours against us. Yet they kill in the name of their perverted form of God, even though every major religion preaches peace and love.

I used to go to major sporting events with nothing more important in mind than what kind of food was being served in the press box Now, sometimes, I wonder if the event I’m attending will be the one the terrorists have chosen to attack.

I used to watch my daughters go to concerts with only the usual worries about traffic accidents or underage drinking. Now I have something else to think about when my granddaughters go to see Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga in a packed arena.

Terrorists like to play on our prejudice against certain religious or racial groups. We must not allow that to happen. We must realize that we are in this battle together. We must hold each other tighter and look out for each other more vigilantly. Trump’s Muslim ban is exactly what we should not be doing because it plays into the terrorists’ blood-stained hands.

Above all, we must not be afraid.

We must continue to attend public events and lead our lives as we normally would. In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester tragedy, that’s difficult. There might be a temptation to avoid crowds or withdraw from the mainstream of life. But if we do that, then the terrorists win. They have crippled us with fear.

I wish I had more to offer in the way of a solution, but that’s for minds far deeper than mine. But I have to believe that solutions are possible if decent, intelligent people of all faiths, colors, and political views can put aside their differences and work together in harmony.

It is a difficult problem that will require patience and persistence. There is no guarantee that we will not see another Manchester or two before evil is defeated. But people of goodwill must never give up. The resolve of the just and righteous must never be shaken.

So now comes the Memorial Day weekend, when America pauses to recognize our fallen heroes. With Memorial Day comes the Indy 500, big crowds at baseball stadiums and race tracks, and concerts of all kinds.

I hope every event has a full house. That’s the best message we can send to the sick minds of the world. 


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