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This week began with a one-two punch to the American psyche that prompted memories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent delivery of poison-laced letters to leaders in Washington.
If the Boston Marathon bombing and the ricin-infected letters to President Obama and member of Congress weren’t enough déjà vu, a deadly explosion Wednesday night at a fertilizer factory near Waco, Texas, revived memories of the horrific 5,000-pound fertilizer-bomb that killed 168 people at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City exactly 13 years ago Friday.
One of the convicted perpetrators of the OKC bombing, Timothy McVeigh, declared that he acted in retribution for the infamous deadly raid by federal authorities in 1993 on the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, which also took place April 19.
The massacre of 32 at Virginia Tech by a senior student took place April 16, 2007, while April 20, 1999 – which also is Adolf Hitler’s birthday – was the day two Columbine High School students chose to carry out an attack in which they murdered 12 students and one teacher.
Meanwhile, this week, a Saudi national who was questioned in the aftermath of the Boston bombing and, according to sources, was set to be jetted back to his homeland, hearkened back to the high-ranking Saudis, including members of Osama bin Laden’s family, who were precipitously airlifted back to Saudi Arabia after 9/11, even as the U.S. airways were shut down.
Many Americans have been unusually uncomfortable this week, to say the least.
“Everybody is very edgy – hyper-vigilant,” Stacey Hader Epstein, 52, a freelance public relations consultant in Atlanta, said in a Bloomberg feature. “It reminds me of what happened after 9/11. It’s good and bad – good in that it brings everybody’s focus back to looking after one another. The negative is it makes everybody paranoid and suspicious.”
Hader Epstein, Bloomberg reported, was passing out free cookies to people nearby in what she called “random acts of kindness” – a practice she started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter in December.
Whether the current state of edginess goes up or down likely will depend on whether or not the twin bombing Monday that killed three people and injured more than 180 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon was a relatively random act by a disturbed “lone wolf” or part of a larger ongoing threat, particularly the global effort to advance Islam.
An IED attack by an international jihadist group on American soil emulating the roadside bombs that have killed and maimed U.S. troops and citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan would mark a new, disturbing frontal advance in the war on the West declared by Islamic fundamentalists.
Skittish Capitol Hill
Echoing the anthrax attack that began one week after 9/11, federal agents who regularly test letters addressed to the president and others at a secret building in Washington found the legal toxin ricin in letters addressed to Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., less than 48 hours after the Boston attack.
Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Miss., who was well known to law enforcement authorities, was arrested Wednesday.
Earlier that day, there was further panic on Capitol Hill when suspicious envelopes were hand-delivered to the offices of senators from Alabama and West Virginia.
The deliveries prompted evacuations of the offices and lockdowns of others nearby. In addition, two other senators reported authorities were investigating suspicious letters delivered to district offices.
To top it off, a bomb squad was called to Capitol Hill Wednesday when a bag was left in the entranceway of a Senate building. Police ordered thousands of staffers and aides to stay in their offices.
Meanwhile, in Boston, as media gathered for a scheduled press conference at a courthouse – anticipating a major breakthrough in identifying the perpetrators of the marathon bombing – police ordered the building evacuated, citing a bomb threat.
Ultimately, there was no press conference on a day in which major media were running with an unconfirmed report that the FBI had identified what CNN’s John King described as a “dark-skinned” suspect.
As MSNBC personalities and other left-leaning media figures openly speculated that the perpetrator was a right-wing extremist, the Internet was abuzz over a report that a Saudi national who was questioned as a “witness” immediately after the bombing Monday was set to be deported.
The reported arrangements came as President Obama met Wednesday with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in a meeting that was not on Obama’s public schedule. The previous day, a meeting Secretary of State John Kerry held with the Saudi foreign minister was abruptly closed to press coverage.
The reported exit of 20-year-old Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, a student who resided in Revere, Mass., brought to mind the special flights sanctioned by the Bush administration that gathered some 140 high-ranking Saudi Arabians – including several relatives of bin Laden – and spirited them out of the country within a week of the attacks.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks came from the Islamic kingdom.
WND reported Wednesday morning that Alharbi shares the same last name as a major Saudi clan that includes scores of al-Qaida operatives.
Some in the clan are senior al-Qaida members while others are reportedly being held by the U.S. in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Federal and state law enforcement agents raided Alharbi’s apartment in Revere, Mass, and reportedly hauled out bags of material. But the Saudi embassy in Washington has said Alharbi was no longer under detention and is not a suspect in the bomb blasts.
So proudly we hailed
Amid the anxious echoes of 9/11, many Americans also are displaying some of the patriotic resolve that arose in the days that followed the attacks on New York City and Washington.
On the ice at TD Garden in Boston Wednesday night, as the Bruins were set to take on the Buffalo Sabres in a National Hockey League match, familiar anthem singer Rene Rancourt launched into “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Rancourt, who has sung for the Bruins for 35 years, soon realized something very special was happening.
As he sang, “What’s so proudly we hailed,” he spontaneously turned from performer to choir leader and set down the microphone on the ice.
He began pumping his fist to the tempo as more than 20,000 proud Americans belted out the anthem as never before.
As the arena lights came on, with no need for a cue, the crowd launched into “USA, USA, USA.”
Watch Rene Rancourt lead the national anthem: