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Terrorist Plots: Two Close Calls Too Close To Home

When it comes to the uncertainties of terrorism, even the most unlikely targets aren't exempt from fear. i

When it comes to the uncertainties of terrorism, even the most unlikely targets aren't exempt from fear.

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When it comes to the uncertainties of terrorism, even the most unlikely targets aren't exempt from fear.

When it comes to the uncertainties of terrorism, even the most unlikely targets aren't exempt from fear.

iStockphoto.com

Marc Acito is the author of Attack of the Theater People.

The alleged terrorist plot by an Iranian-American used car salesman trying to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. doesn't have anything to do with Christmas trees. But as I watched this bizarre story unfold, it seemed to.

Ten years ago on Sept. 11, I was in Portland, Ore., my home since graduating from college in 1990. But I grew up in New Jersey, so I spent the entire day on the phone obsessively reaching out to friends and family who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan.

Something tragic had happened "at home" and I felt like I should have been there for it. I felt out of sync as I heard Portlanders say how relieved they were to be out of harm's way. I like being alive as much as the next guy, but it bummed me out that I had made a "safe" choice in my life; that I lived in a city too irrelevant to be attacked.

I recognize how weird that sounds, but Portland is a famously content city. It's a live-and-let-live place where the biggest skirmishes occur between militant bicyclists and inattentive drivers. It's beautiful and easy and, frankly, I was bored by it.

So in April 2010 I finally moved east to New York. But seven months later a Somali-American student in Oregon tried to set off a bomb during the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in downtown Portland. I felt guilty that I had abandoned my other home, like I should have been there for it.

Marc Acito lives in New York City, where he writes musicals.

Marc Acito lives in New York City, where he writes musicals.

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I really don't have a death wish. It's just that, in a bizarre way, the threat of global terrorism makes me feel like a citizen of the world. So much of American life has become about being separate — shielding ourselves in our cars while we drive through a warren of streets to reach our private cul de sacs where we pull into garages before entering our homes.

Then, occasionally, the act of a terrorist reminds us that we are never completely alone. That despite our attempts to isolate ourselves, the modern world still shares the planet with crazed, medieval-seeming crusaders.

After all, Manssor Arbabsiar, the suspect in the plot to murder the Saudi ambassador, lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, which seems about as likely a breeding ground for terrorism as Portland, Ore.

But instead of making me feel terrified, these terrorists make me want to reach out to the strangers around me. To actually talk to the person crammed up against me in the New York subway. Because, whether we're afraid of a Christmas tree or a murderous used car salesman, we're all in this together.

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