By Bill Rauch
Here’s my take on how civilians can do their part in combating terrorism.
Several weeks after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a business story appeared in The Wall Street Journal that described how transcontinental flights from the Eastern U.S. were then virtually empty and that the airlines, protecting their routes, were offering deeply discounted fares for those legs. In all four instances where planes had been hijacked to be used as bombs on 9/11, readers may recall, the planes were transcontinental flights loaded with enough jet fuel at East Coast airports to make the trip. Travelers knew this and they were staying away from the east-to-west transcontinental flights.
The story went on to say that house rentals and timeshares in Hawaii had for the same reason dried up for the upcoming Christmas season. Wary travelers were giving up their deposits and planning to celebrate their holidays locally.
Frequent readers know I like to say, “In adversity there’s opportunity.” Here in Beaufort the tragic events in Paris present us with at least two opportunities.
In October, 2001 I called my friend in Maui, Sandy Wall, and asked him if he could find me a bargain on a beach house rental. He said he could find me a dozen. Our 2001 holiday trip to Maui was one of the best we ever took. We visited with Sandy and his family. The locals could not have been more welcoming. Everything from the plane fares to the house to the surfboard rentals was at 50-75% off. And, just by showing up and having a good time we gained the satisfaction of knowing we had struck a blow against terrorism.
Having learned this lesson in 2001, I proposed to my wife last week that we go to Paris for Christmas. “The restaurants will be empty,” I said, “and the French will be at their most hospitable. Just wait. The plane fares will soon be dropping through the floor. And in a week or two when they’ve seen clearly the handwriting on the wall, the hotels will be giving away rooms.”
I thought it was a reasonable proposition, if perhaps delivered a little soon after the attacks. Timing is, of course, everything.
Let me just say my wife’s and my conversation on the topic was brief, and the upshot of it was if I wanted to celebrate the holidays with the family it would be best if I made my plans around being in Beaufort.
A little time having passed since then, you may have better luck with your suggestion.
That is the first opportunity: we can do our small part in combating terrorism now by going to Paris, and the intrepid that do go will be further rewarded in both euros and hospitality. The second is the relative safety the events abroad provide to us who live in Beaufort.
Consider this the next time an F-35 fighter jet flies over. MCAS-Beaufort is one of a handful of testing facilities for the F-35. The F-35 program, currently costing out about $400 billion, is said to be the most expensive weapons-development program ever … anywhere. A great deal of this money was spent — and is still being spent — perfecting the aircraft’s aerial reconnaissance system that is beyond state-of-the-art. When they finally come on line, the F-35s will replace the AWACs as the primary aerial eyes on the airborne battlefield.
It goes without saying the Government is determined to keep secret the details of the F-35’s reconnaissance system, as well as its many other systems that are equally innovative. Everyone from the CIA, the DIA and the NSA to MCAS-Beaufort’s Provost’s Office to SLED to the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Intelligence Center and the police departments in Beaufort and Port Royal knows this. All these agencies are watching all the time in a great variety of ways for any signs of mischief in Beaufort.
That unusual vigilance when it is combined with Beaufort’s scarcity of “soft targets,” venues where thousands of people assemble, tends to reduce the risk of terrorist incidents here. Indeed, local law enforcement officials say that while they are in a heightened state of awareness now because of Paris no one is aware of any hint of a terrorist plot having ever been uncovered that involved Beaufort or the surrounding area.
Because Beaufort is Beaufort and everyone knows everyone, their cousins and their neighbors and their ex-girlfriends as well, and because our churches fill up on Sundays, law enforcement officials say that the soil here is particularly tough ground for the ill-willed to cultivate. Further complicating the situation for those who might seek to disrupt life here is that the whole place can be sealed off with two roadblocks: one each at the Whale Branch and the Broad River bridges.
So I’m looking forward to a cozy and safe Christmas holiday in Beaufort. But I’ll he thinking about Paris too. Those of my readers who choose to go, please be sure to drop me a photo of you and yours bringing in a great 2016 — and striking a blow against terrorism too – by enjoying discounted cocktails in the Ritz Bar in Paris.