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Tony's Take


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There are plenty of things that can bring a tragedy as big as this week's terrorist attacks home to each of us. For me there were at least four.

I often fly out of Logan for California and was, in fact, planning to leave for a film festival and some meetings there next week. If I had decided to leave sooner, I might have been on a hijacked flight myself.

That morning I went to see my mother in a nursing home near Boston. When I arrived, her nurse told me that her younger brother had flown out of from Logan that morning, and there was no word, no word at all, on where he was.

Later that evening, unable to do anything ourselves but watch the news, my family ordered pizza. The delivery man came over an hour later, looking exhausted. Everyone was ordering pizza that night, he said. He'd been on the road since four that afternoon, going from family to family, each of them, like mine, in front of their televisions, watching the tragedy together. Half of them met him with a smile, he said. The other half with daggers. He is an Arab, who came to America to work and start a new life, just last month.

His story made me realize that I'll now have two things to worry about the next time I try to fly out of Logan. One: I might be taken for a hostage. Two: I might be taken for a terrorist. Though my Mother is of Russian Jewish blood and my father a Hungarian, I, too, look like an Arab.

Clearly, the world shrank this week by a whole new order of magnitude, into something the size of a room. Not only are we more at the mercy of strangers, for better or worse, than ever, we have no reliable way of telling friend from foe. The high tech tools of communication and travel that have taken down so many of the barriers and borders between us have also left us incredibly vulnerable to the low tech assault of anyone with vengeance in his heart or a murderous passion in his mind.

None of the cell phones that let hijacked victims call their love ones from the plane, none of the camcorders in the hands of the tourists that showed the world images of the disaster within hours of the event, none of the x-ray machines at the security check-ins in Boston and Dulles Airport, could show us what was inside the soul of a terrorist, willing to die -- and kill - for his cause. And no high tech technology ever will.

Like a bad trip, this tragedy is taking us down a dark road, into the heart of what looks like an alien set of values, an alien way of life. Already, talk of good against evil, of Armageddon, fills the air.

Surviving the trip, I'm guessing, is going to depend on that travelers have always needed to reach their destinations and return safely home - not being too scared of the differences between people, and learning how to look into each other's hearts for signs of good will and peace, at least as often, and with just as much resolve, as we look into each other's luggage for weapons.

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