Volume 76, Number 8 | July 12 - 18, 2006

Commuters keep ridin’ that train after terror plot

Commuters keep ridin’ that train after terror plot

By Anindita Dasgupta

Only a week after the Department of Homeland Security announced the Holland Tunnel and PATH commuter trains had been potential targets for terrorist attacks, commuters continued using the PATH, only slightly deterred by the news.

At a press conference last Friday, authorities announced the arrest of a Lebanese man, Assem Hammoud, for planning attacks in train tunnels beneath the Hudson River. At the press conference, Mayor Bloomberg said the city recognized that the threats were serious. But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that the terror plans were not in operational stages. Regardless, security in tunnels and subway stations in Lower Manhattan has been increased over the last few weeks in response to the threats, Kelly said.

Commuters interviewed Monday at the Christopher St. PATH station in the Village said that the new terror threats, while distressing, would not stop them from using the trains.

One PATH commuter, who preferred not to be named, told The Villager, “I know it’s taking a chance but you have to get around.”

Linda Evans, a student at Fashion Institute of Technology, shrugged her shoulders and said that she had heard of the threats, but would continue, “riding the rails.” Evans said she hadn’t noticed an increase in security on either the New York or New Jersey sides of the PATH tunnels.

Another commuter, Jen Hilariou, has noticed heavier security at the Hoboken PATH station in New Jersey.

“You always see cops around,” he said. Hilariou said he was confident in the Police Department’s ability to protect commuters. “I mean it [the threat] makes me nervous, but I always see cops,” he said.

There will be even further security at the Exchange Pl. PATH station in Jersey City during the next three weeks, as the Port Authority tests out new technology to screen travelers. However, at the July 7 press conference, Samuel Plumeri, authority police superintendent, said implementing this technology was already in place prior to the terror threats.

Another commuter, Keith McNeil, said the threats both do and don’t make him nervous. He said they do because, “It’s a real threat! It’s time for America to do what they need to do keep us safe,” he said. McNeil called on better background checks on people crossing U.S. borders. He said the U.S. has been bringing war to other countries throughout history, and that unfortunately, countries are starting to bring war to the U.S. now. “It’s just the way things go,” he said.

However, McNeil continued, compared with other countries, the U.S. is in much better shape financially, and for that reason he doesn’t feel too nervous about the threats.

“I’d rather be here in America than anywhere else,” he said. “We have nothing to complain about here.”

McNeil’s comment is particularly relevant in light of Tuesday’s terror attacks on crowded commuter trains in India, where early reports indicate 174 deaths and between 250 and 300 injured.

Like his fellow commuters, Rodrigo Apiolaza put aside his nerves about the terror threats. As he jumped onto a PATH train leaving for New Jersey, he called, “We can’t let them make us feel afraid!”

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