The impacts of September 11th were felt (and are still being felt) all over the world, but nowhere more emotionally than in New York City itself. Yet arguments about the TSA’s new body-scanners, Middle East exit strategies, and blue-and-red party politics really don’t matter much when you’re on the subway headed home and you spot a brown bag under the seat beside you. What do you do? It’s probably nothing, and you don’t want to make a fuss over what’s most likely a forgotten turkey sandwich. But what if you’re wrong?
In the summer of 2010, the Department of Homeland Security launched a campaign called “If You See Something, Say Something.” New Yorkers will recognize the slogan from MTA (metro) posters and bus stops, but the slogan was licensed to the DHS recently for their public awareness campaign.
Just like it sounds, anyone who spots a suspicious activity should report what they see immediately to local law enforcement (or, obviously, by calling 9-11). The DHS likes to stress that race or religious affiliation alone are not suspicious, and that behavior itself should be deemed “reasonably indicative of criminal activity related to terrorism” for it to be reported. Now the campaign is even partnered with the NFL, NBA, Amtrak, and Walmart, among many others.
So what does this change about your family trip to see The Lion King on Broadway? Relatively nothing. The campaign simply encourages you to be familiar with warning signs (such as packages, backpacks, or piles of things left unattended – especially in public spaces or near famous landmarks). Trust your instincts and remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. For example, the infamous Times Square car bomb in 2010 started out as a smoking, awkwardly-parked car that was spotted by a sidewalk T-shirt vendor – who then contacted police and could have been responsible for saving thousands of lives if the homemade bomb hadn’t malfunctioned before evacuations.
The DHS has a video on their website with more details if you’re still unsure. You can also check the Terrorism Preparedness Act of 2004. Most importantly, go about your day normally; there’s no sense in being paranoid when most things are out of your control to begin with. The important thing is to pay a bit more attention to your surroundings – and not to be afraid of (or apathetic about) reporting something strange if you see it.
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