Who’s Protecting Us?


Since the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, many commentators have questioned where the government response was in the sky that day. No, the would-be bomber wasn’t stopped by air marshals, metal detectors, CIA, FBI, TSA screeners, a terror watch list, or any of the other new security and administrative networks put in place since the 9/11 attacks eight years ago. Instead, the attack was stopped by airline employees and citizens who had the foresight to recognize a threat and then act upon it.

Citizen action occurs more than we give credit for. Car accidents, fires, crime and medical emergencies… are almost always reported by citizens going about their regular business and not by a police officer or other government entity on routine patrol. Amanda Ripley has an interesting article in this week’s Time magazine which should give us pause about each of our individual’s role in society and the War on Terror.

While the politicians we elected try to figure out the psychology and consequences of who we’re fighting, why, and how to make this war end, we will be faced with this threat. And after this threat is extinguished, we no doubt may be faced with new ones. Gone are the days when most men wear guns on their hips, yet the same responsibility still exists. If passengers on that airplane obeyed the seatbelt sign and FAA regulations, the bomber – who defied the rules- would have succeeded in blowing up the airplane. Its not the airplane that was the only target though, but also whatever lay beneath it.

I’m not advocating for us to return to the days that we all carry arms and take the law into our own hands here. But what I am saying is that mentally we need to change the mindset in ourselves as well as the next generation that we do have a responsibility to intervene in emergencies and in civil life whenever the need arises. Too often we downplay a true hero’s resolve in the face of danger. “You could have gotten hurt” or “that would be too risky” is often said. Nobody wants to be a hero. But let’s not punish heroes when they rise to the occaision. And please -let them use the bathroom, or perhaps have a meal too.

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