TOURIST OR TERRORIST
There I was sitting in my car, parked illegally in midtown Manhattan recently. With time on my hands and understandably fearful of leaving the vehicle unattended, I got to paying unusually close attention to the endless stream of passersby. Looming high above me was a most imposing structure, with signage proclaiming it to be a Wells Fargo Bank. It’s no secret that Wells Fargo as well as a handful of other big banks have been under a dark cloud these days for their role in ushering in the Great Recession. Accordingly, any one of them could be targeted by those aiming to get even or by people determined to strike a blow against a mighty fortress of American finance.
Glancing out the side window I spotted a young man on the sidewalk alongside the bank taking picture after picture of this bastion-like skyscraper. Why, I wondered. Was he an architectural student cataloging the glass box style of commercial design or perhaps a visitor impressed by the stark glass and steel tower that pierced the sky? Then it hit me. He just might be a terrorist confirming details of a building he and his group planned to attack. He was, after all, swarthy, dressed completely in black, with a knapsack on his back. Plus, he had a most serious look about him. And to clinch the matter, when not taking pictures from various positions he was entering extensive notes into a writing pad.
For years New Yorkers have been advised that “If you see something, say something”. Wouldn’t this qualify? But I’m not going to leave the car and risk an expensive parking ticket. And there’s no policeman in the vicinity. A citizen’s arrest? Just how do you do that?” So, I just sit there. Finally he moves on. I feel terribly guilty about my inaction. I take little comfort in the fact that when the catastrophe does occur I should be able to provide police with a reasonably accurate description.
I’m still sitting there when I begin to notice an ongoing pattern of activity along the sidewalk. Tourists for the most part are stopping again and again, looking up at the Wells Fargo building and taking scores of pictures. Young couples, individuals, teenagers, girls, boys, everyone seems to have discovered something compelling about the structure that prompted them to stop to take pictures. I’m immensely relieved. My “terrorist” was nothing more than a wide-eyed tourist! “Yeah”, you say. That’s probably so. But why and what was that guy writing into his notebook? I can’t tell you.