What We Learned

Last week taught us a lot.

We learned that in spite of increased security measures since 9/11, we are still vulnerable to attacks from individuals bent on changing our way of life.

We learned that intelligent, seemingly normal teens growing up in a country that advocates freedom and liberty for all can still be susceptible to radicalization by others. We need to learn how this happens and, more importantly, develop strategies that can counter those influences that are so overwhelmingly compelling to some that they are willing to commit acts of terror against people who have opened their homes and schools to them for ten years.

We learned, once again, how the responsible use of social media is helping citizens take action against those who would do us harm by staying alert and reporting what they see and hear immediately to enforcement officials. Events in Boston also reminded us of the importance, (and in another sense, sadness), that we now live in a society under almost constant surveillance, at least in major metropolitan areas; and that officials need to be vigilant that this new technology should only be used for our security.

We learned just how effective local police and FBI were in working through thousands of pieces of information, analyzing and determining first, who the suspects were, then closing in and killing one and capturing the other. All of this happened in an astonishing four days.

We learned how well citizens reacted to the first release of the photos which helped investigators zero in on the suspects. And, when those same citizens were told to close businesses, cancel events and stay inside, they listened.

We learned how effective the media can be in keeping us informed of what’s going on during moments of crisis with a new team of analysts drawn from former FBI, CIA and terrorism experts. As the media now moves into aftermath phase, my hope is that they are suitably sensitive and cautious about replaying every… single… element… of this tragedy. Lesson for the media: only report on updates that move information forward without the need for deliberate and constant over-analyzing of events.

This week, we also learned how 46 U.S. senators, in defiance of 90 percent of the American public that has called for stricter gun control measures including universal background checks; how 46 duly elected senators who are supposed to be working for the people, voted against, not only what a majority of their colleagues voted for, but against what the American public wants. Let’s hope that same public remembers that deliberate defiance in November 2014.

We also learned that inspite of last week’s Senate vote, that the resolve of Newtown parents and others will not be diminished.

“We aren’t going to go away. I know I’m not. We’re not going to stop until there are changes that are made,” said Neil Heslin who’s six-year-old son died at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

Heslin was part of group of family members from Newtown, Connecticut who spent a week in Washington sharing their thoughts and memories of loved ones killed by a lone gunman using an assault rifle and high-capacity magazines. However, they proved to be no match for the vocal minority mounted by the National Rifle Association who rates each member of congress by how they vote on gun legislation, then actively targets those members who vote against them.

By the end of the week, we learned that immediately after the second suspect was captured, Boston businesses and people not only returned to something resembling normal, but people in other cities, notably New York – a survivor of its own terror attack – took time to send a message of unification to the country and the world that our way of life will not be altered by terrorists. At a Yankee game, we saw players and fans come together in support of Boston. The annual rivalry was likened by some as siblings who fight but ultimately remain family.

We learned that American resolve is stronger than any momentary fear and anxiety brought about by a great crisis. It is our principles that make us who we are.

Two of those principles, responsibility and citizenship, were part of the real lesson that came from Boston Mayor Thomas Menino who, after learning that they had captured the second suspect, tweeted a one word message: “Teamwork.”

Members of Congress need to take a lesson from Boston and understand that the only way ALL of us can succeed is when ALL of us work together for our common interests. That’s what unites us. That’s what continues to give us the strength to get back up on our feet and move forward.

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