Closing Lake Shore Drive: When the Threat of Terrorism Is Close to Home

The reason terrorism works, and make no bones about it, it does work, is that it creates fear and chaos in day-to-day life.  Things that should be normal, routine, easy are majorly impacted by terrorism.  Subways in London, cafes in Israel, finish lines in Boston, office towers in New York City.  These are all places that average normal citizens populate, which is what makes them attractive targets for terrorists.  Fiddling with routine, replacing the hum drum with fear is a terrorists’ trade.

Just about an hour ago, driving north on Lake Shore Drive, I came upon, quite suddenly, a veritable parking lot of traffic.  No one was moving.  The south bound lanes were empty and the north bound lanes were stopped.  At first I thought it was Cubs’ traffic, but that didn’t make any sense.  This was only the bottom of the 7th and the game was still in progress.  In New York.  I flipped on the AM radio to see what was happening, but only after complaining about baseball and traffic on Facebook.

Watching news develop outside my car window.
Watching news develop outside my car window.

Well, something was happening.  Suspicious packages had been found strewn about Lake Shore Drive, Chicago’s pristine north/south thoroughfare.

We now live in a culture that not only fears suspicious packages, but drops everything, and I mean everything, to investigate them.  This is our world now, thanks to terrorism.  Those terrorists must be proud of themselves.

As I sat in my car, originally just frustrated by the idea of traffic, I soon became all too aware of how close we all live to terrorism these days.  The radio reports informed me of those suspicious packages, Lake Shore Drive’s closure, and that robots had been brought in to handle the packages before humans were put in harm’s way.

This is the stuff I watch in movies or on news clips, but here it all was unfolding literally outside my car window.  Robots to deal with IEDs are a strategy used in Iraq, not my beloved Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

I was afraid, even for a moment, I was afraid.  My baby was in the back seat.  My husband and older son were in two different places.  We were separated and I was afraid.

That is how terrorism works.  Fear is its currency.

Right now I am back in my living room, typing away at my writing table, reflecting about the potential for something scary that could have happened, but didn’t.  In the end, those suspicious packages turned out to be a homeless person’s belongings that had flown into traffic on a windy day.  What folks would complain about and mutter about under their breath as they drove around a few years ago is now cause to halt traffic on Chicago’s main north/south thoroughfare.

So why am I writing about terrorism when this was clearly a mistake — a collision of Mother Nature’s wind and homelessness?

Because in those moments sitting in my car I didn’t know that.  Because as someone somewhere in Chicago’s public safety department made the decision to close down Lake Shore Drive, they didn’t know that.  Because as those first responders sent in a robot to investigate a possible explosive device, they didn’t know that.  In those moments, it could have been terrorism and it was treated as such.

This is the world we live in now, folks.  Yesterday a blogging friend in Boston wrote about how she watched some yahoo carry another backpack to the Boston Marathon finish line — the guy walked right past she and her family.  Today I get caught in a parking lot on Lake Shore Drive.

This is because of the threat of terrorism.  In America.  Today.

It is real and it is now the life we live.  Today it looked like this.

What the threat of terrorism looked like in Chicago today.
What the threat of terrorism looked like in Chicago today.

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