Tombers is the President of Intermat,
Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection
of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced
the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for
the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the
Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat
recently sold METEORS TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael
ORourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television
movie. Visit his
web site at http://www.intermat.tv
Thoughts on Life in a Time of Cost Effective Terror
The train is clanking its way from Washington, D.C. to New
York, from Union Station to Penn Station, a three hour journey
that can give one time to straighten out ones thoughts,
read a newspaper thoroughly, get a quick nap and not be hassled
by the random searches that plague the plane traveler. Perhaps,
one day, it will come to train travel, also, but not yet.
As I left D.C., traveling by taxi from the hotel to the station,
I fielded three phone calls from different parts of the country,
all asking me if there was dancing in the streets as it looked
like the sniper had been caught. No, no dancing that I was
People in D.C. are not going to dance until its proven
these chaps are the sniper[s] and there havent been
any attacks for awhile. I have just spent three days there
and there was/is a quiet tenseness in the air that is far
different to the days following the September 11th attacks.
At one moment, riding in a taxi I was thinking: this must
be a little bit how it feels like to live in Tel Aviv.
I was thinking of taking the metro out to see a friend yesterday
evening but my client wouldnt hear of it it meant
being in the open too much so I hailed a cab and went on my
way. But that is the kind of concession that has been being
made on a daily basis in the D.C. area. Mothers have told
me their children have been playing in malls not parks. Fathers
take their children to school, not that it makes them any
safer but that it feels safer to the child. Restaurants are
down by nearly 50% and window seats in them are empty.
One friend told me he didnt even think about it
he entered a restaurant yesterday for lunch and sought out
what looked like the coziest table. Only after he sat down
did he really his cozy choice was one in the center of the
restaurant surrounded by other tables of diners. He felt sheepish
as he realized that he had made his choice based on a desire
I love reading the International Herald Tribune and I picked
it up this morning in Washingtons Union Station. One
of its headline stories was: Cost Effective Terror: a van
and 13 bullets.
Got that right! D.C. and its environs have been gripped in
a kind of fear I havent experienced before. If its
over [and in the grey light of Fridays dawn, it looks
as if it is] I am glad I was there and experienced a little
bit of it because it was unlike anything else Ive
experienced. The city and its people kept on moving, bravely,
purposely, going on with their lives but totally fearful.
Gallows humor was everywhere a coping mechanism. People
were living but their lives were not normal.
Normal. What a wonderful word that is. Its a word Ive
talked about a lot in this column. Our new normal. Normal
has a different meaning now than it did prior to September
11th and every day we live seems to take us further away from
that normal. The nations capital has been locked in
a kind of terror and it has been a demonstration of
the power of a non-military force to instill terror on a location.
Until all the talk about money, many minds had surrendered
that this was a new form of a terrorist attack and
that almost seemed calming in that at least there was some
sort of explanation that fit in with a world view of some
[dreadful] kind. But to be doing this for money? That was
a kind of madness that was hard to get your arms around
and for some the reverse was true. Welcome to D.C. Welcome
But this is another example of our new normal. Terrorism
and its possibility -- is now a real part of the fabric of
our lives. At a meeting on Tuesday someone from D.C. introduced
himself to me and asked me if I lived in D.C. or in New York.
When I said I was from New York, he responded, Well,
welcome to the new terror capital of the world.
Well that was only good until Wednesday night, when six or
seven hundred Muscovites went off to see the equivalent of
a Broadway show and found themselves at the center of the
Chechen dispute. In my prayers and Im praying
a lot these days I prayed for them last night. I could
imagine what it would be like, sitting watching a play and
having it taken over by individuals willing to blow me up
to get something they wanted.
When I got back to the hotel last night, I was grateful I
had made it there safely. I am grateful I made it back to
New York safely. I will be grateful for every movement I make
that comes out safely.
And I am stunned that this is my life. Welcome to the 21st
century. I suppose it has always been like this. No time has
been safe. When our grandparents were growing
up they had the great depression and then Hitler, Tojo and
a world war. Our parents had the cold war to fret about when
raising all us baby boomers, the fear in their heart that
we would be all of us evaporated in one bright
flash of foolishness.
We are in a sea change time of history. Everyone I speak to
seems to acknowledge it but there is no clear view of where
that sea change will be taking us and, in truth, no
generation has been able to see what is just ahead. But what
is important is that we keep putting one foot in front of
another, making do the best we can with life. Thats
what everyone I knew in D.C. was doing this week, putting
one frightened foot in front of another, exhibiting a courage
they did not recognize but which, nonetheless, was the miracle
they brought into my life.