Running For Our Lives

May 3, 2010

Standing at the back of a throng of 14,000 or so people, waiting to run Sunday’s 10k race, just over 12 hours after the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square, I am struck at just how vulnerable we are as a society. Despite the increased surveillance and information gathering in our post 9/11 world, it seems we cannot cast a net wide enough to ensnare all those looking to do us harm. (Nor is that something we should aspire to, given the assault on our liberties and freedom it would involve.) We are sitting ducks for those determined and intelligent enough.

Take this situation for example. At any point of time along the race route down one of Toronto’s main arteries, Yonge Street, cars are parked on side roads close enough to inflict serious destruction. Someone could easily drive a vehicle loaded with explosives straight into the crowd, killing a lot of people. Hell, you wouldn’t even need the explosives. Just driving a car alone into the crowds would result in a great many casualties.

Yet it doesn’t happen with any great frequency. Why is that? There is certainly enough hatred out there. Obviously the events of 9/11 along with the Bali, Madrid and London bombings have made us a little more vigilant than we were before, on our toes for shady behaviour. It was a t-shirt vendor in Times Square who first spotted the suspicious SUV (although, all SUVs look suspicious to me) on Saturday. So we now think the unthinkable and expect the unexpected.

However, a bigger reason we live essentially terrorism free, I assume, is that organized large scale attacks simply aren’t that easy to pull off. What made 9/11 so spectacular, along with the high death and injury count, was the very fact it was executed to such a degree of perfection. It was dependent on a level of coordinated planning, dedication, selflessness and luck that doesn’t coalesce all that easily or often. The fact that United flight 93 was interrupted by passengers and brought down before it hit its target in D.C. speaks to how important the element of surprise is for such plans to work.

Of course, I’m spending much more time thinking about all this now than I did yesterday. It was merely a fleeting thought as I made my way down Yonge Street much less fleetingly.

What a gas to have the street all to ourselves, running through red lights, marveling at the cars waiting on the side streets. I mean, seriously folks. This is going on for a couple hours. You don’t want to turn around, find yourselves a detour?

To sing a very familiar refrain: Toronto is a far more pleasant place without vehicular traffic. Of that, there can be no argument. There’s less noise and pollution. A more easy going vibe fills the vacuum of their absence. As I make my way along Richmond Street, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be without cars. If there is a war on cars going right now, it should not only continue but escalate. If there’s not, there should be.

All of which I have a mind to tell mayoral candidate George Smitherman as he and his purple shirted entourage pass me at about kilometre 8. However, I am immediately consumed by a competitive edge. If I beat no one else in this race across the finish line, it will be George Smitherman and his pack of shiny-faced campaign workers. That will be victory enough.

I’m still lagging behind as we make it to 9k and then up and over the Bathurst Street bridge just south of Front Street. Turning onto Fort York Boulevard, however, I turn the jets on, blowing past the Smitherman team with the finish line in sight. There is no counter attack and I leave the Smitherman team in my dust.

Rival candidates take note. It seems that George Smitherman is vulnerable down the home stretch of a race.

victoriously submitted by Urban Sophisticat