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Terror threat taken in stride

The terrorism buzz can be overwhelming for residents - but many are taking it in stride.

BY HEATHER MOYER | NEW YORK CITY | October 11, 2005

Whether the New York City terror threats are true or false, all the terrorism buzz can be overwhelming for residents - but many are also taking it in stride.

"I do get a little twinge of nervousness when I'm on a bridge or in a tunnel," said the Rev. Dr. Stephen Bouman, president of Lutheran Disaster Response of New York and Bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"I think that feeds on the post-traumatic time that we're still in. But these alerts are going to keep coming up. I think we should be cautious, but we should also go on with our lives. This is the way it's going to be."

Last week New York City and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials announced that terrorism threats to New York City's subway system had been heard among the terrorist chatter. This threat was unusual because it was one of few threats on the city that was so specific. That threat in turn had police officers swarming the subway, searching bags and being more of a presence.

Yet Tuesday authorities said the threat was based on false information. For Bouman - true threats or not - residents will still have to cope with the possibility of another attack.

Bouman says after seeing the mayor ride the subway to work when the threat was first announced is an example of continuing life but being more aware. He added that the lingering anxiety over terrorism is also present for those working in high-rise buildings, but even those risks don't stop people from doing what they have to do.

"We have a congregation in the CitiCorp building and they had a threat last year," he explained. "But Sunday came around and people still went to church."

To Bouman, while the terror threats may make some cynical, it is still important to put trust in public servants. He said that most of those servants are in between a rock and a hard place. While he does not like to see the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 or any publicized terror threats used as a political tool, the public does need to know when the threats are there.

"Sometimes we don't trust the warnings, but then again, there was a lot of cry about us not being ready on Sept. 11, so it's a fine line, really," he said.

Peter Gudaitis agreed. "I think the fact of the matter is that the public wants to know," said the executive director of New York Disaster Interfaith Services.

"It's been a while since the terror alert was raised last for us. I think the London bombings showed a vulnerability for everyone, and an ally we have. We really have to trust the police department and that they are giving the public good advice."

Both Bouman and Gudaitis noted that the city's residents are already more vigilant and cautious due to Sept. 11. Yet that previous experience also leaves lingering emotional worries which the new terror threats can sometimes bring back to the surface. Bouman noted that one's faith and prayer life are crucial in being able to continue forward.

"People get frustrated and uneasy, but they're still able to go on," he said. "But the past is still very much with us."


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