Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In Boston's Defense

It's now been almost a week since these guys caused a very edgy few hours in the city I'm currently calling home. Almost all day Wednesday we in Boston got updates of new suspicious devices being discovered at various locations around the city; traffic was snarled; the status of public transportation was unclear - it was a little nerve-wracking. Once it became clear that nothing was actually going to explode, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Come to find out, of course, the whole thing was caused by nothing more than an obnoxiously-placed and ill-conceived "marketing campaign" for a cable cartoon show (which I freely confess I'd never even heard of until that evening).

As Boston Globe writer Lisa Wangsness reported on Monday, the official reaction to the "Mooninite Invasion" has prompted some not-so-good-natured ribbing from comedians, bloggers, and others from Boston and beyond (including, I must note, the two men arrested for placing the devices, who held a bizarre press conference following their first court appearance at which they would answer questions about nothing except hairstyles). Many people seem to be finding it amusing (and even surprising) that a major coastal city would take serious action after odd-looking devices with battery packs were discovered on bridges, underpasses and various other infrastructural locations.

The reaction, in my view and in the view of many others I've spoken with this week, was both efficient and effective. Boston, Cambridge and Somerville officials took the necessary steps to keep people safe from what appeared for a time to be a serious threat. The only thing that ended up bothering me about how this event was handled is the fact that the devices had been up for more than a week before being discovered! That's the troubling part, and is clearly something that needs to be/is being addressed. As for their handling of the response, however, I think the city managed it fairly well. It all ended up being a needless disruption - but frankly I'd much rather have a needless disruption than the alternative.

Yes, in hindsight the whole thing is slightly amusing. But last Wednesday, it wasn't funny. Seeing bomb squad trucks outside, hearing news helicopters overhead for hours on end, not knowing whether your friends and coworkers had made it across the river from Cambridge or would be able to get home easily that night - that wasn't funny. Getting more and more reports of "strange devices" found all over the city all day long - that wasn't funny. Not being sure that there wasn't going to be a massive explosion somewhere nearby - that wasn't funny. We weren't laughing. That's not overreaction, that's just the world we live in.


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