After Terrorism Struck NYC, We Forgot

Recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Turkey, Paris and many other places have unleashed terrible suffering, pain, fear and hate. There are countless questions and explanations. Experts, politicians and academics will continue to debate the causes and solutions, as they always have.

We should continue to be vigilant, but not afraid. Deaths from terrorism are still at such a low level, it’s their rarity that place them at the top of news coverage. That’s cold comfort to victims and their families, of course.

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Damage from the 1920 Wall Street terrorist bombing, which killed 38 people and injured hundreds

A few years ago I was shocked to learn about a deadly terrorist attack in New York City. Apparently this occurred in 1920. Someone set off a bomb in a horse-drawn cart outside the New York Stock Exchange. It killed 38 people and injured hundreds. And yet, I never heard about it until reading Ron Chernow’s acclaimed book, The House of Morgan. Apparently you can still see damage marks from the explosion on the stock exchange building.

Why did terrorists in 1920 kill innocent people?
In 1920, this was a big deal. It was in the news for months, politicians and the public expressed their sadness and outrage. The FBI investigated, and were even initially confused at why someone would kill innocent civilians without a clear motive. From what I read, the terrorist attack was committed by German and Italian anarchists disgruntled after WWI, and linked to vague grievances about social and labour policies at the time.

And then, we forgot
This was a terrible, fatal, destructive terrorist attack, struck in the heart of the World’s financial capital. But then, something remarkable and unexpected happened. People forgot.

Over time, with the passage of years, the Great Depression, WWII and the Cold War, we forgot. We forgot about the 100 lbs of dynamite in the horse drawn carriage on Wall Street. We forgot about the 38 people killed by 500 lbs of cast iron shrapnel. We forgot about the anarchists.

An yet, here we are, almost 100 years later, still worried about the next terrorist attack. A hundred years later, and we have solved nothing. We still have angry, deranged, demented enemies. And, we have no idea how to stop them.

But, history has taught us one fact. Decades from now, people will mostly have forgotten Brussels, Paris, 9-11 and all the other terrorist attacks. We say we won’t forget, but we do. Because we have. And then they’ll happen again. And maybe that’s the real tragedy.

Mike Chopowick – March 23, 2016

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