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Windows and Walls


Recently I went to visit the ATM at my local bank, and something was different. The ATM had been moved down a few feet, and the driveup windows were gone. In their place was a blank brick wall. I thought at first that they had closed the drive-up, which didn’t make any sense because the lanes and carrier machines were still in place. I went in and asked them what happened to the drive-up windows. They said they had been bricked over for security reasons and the tellers used closed-circuit cameras. I also noticed that the tellers inside the bank were behind what I assumed to be bullet-proof glass. I didn’t ask any more questions so they wouldn’t think I was casing the joint.

I suppose that the most determined thieves would not be deterred by a brick wall although it would give pause to most. There are also those geniuses who try to pull ATM’s out of the wall. My question is, once they have it, what do they do with it? You can’t exactly ride around with an ATM in the back of your pickup without attracting a lot of attention. Anyhow, it’s a sad day when banks feel they have to close up their drive-through windows and put their tellers behind glass.

We have all become used to increased security since 9/11, which has manifested itself in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Everyone knows about the 3-ounce liquid limit with carryons and taking our shoes off at security while flyi8ng. It could be worse. I taught with a woman who made frequent trips to Israel on El Al. She said that the security process before a flight could take four to five hours. Every bit of luggage was searched and checked by bomb-sniffing dogs, and every passenger was questioned, sometimes several times, by security people toting semi-automatic weapons. If your luggage or your story was the least bit out of line, you didn’t fly. Now that’s security.

We hear about conspiracies and plots when suspects are arrested, although I believe we don’t know half of what is going on. It’s just as well—all this attention to security can create a sort of semi-permanent anxiety and paranoia. Even the church I go to has security people and a security plan with three levels depending on the severity of the threat. At first, I thought a church of all places would be safe, but as we know there have been shootings of pastors and shootings inside churches. Schools were similarly considered safe until Columbine in 1999. All this has become part of our lives.

Given the situation, what do we do? I would suggest that we do what I see most people doing—go calmly about our business. The statistical probability of dying in a terrorist attack is quite low, so we can relax know we’ll probably die of something else. Focusing on the relationships and faith we have and contributing to our communities are the best ways we have to provide for our own safety.

We should be grateful for those who guard us. As George Orwell is reputed to have said, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” I would amend “rough men” to read “courageous men and women.” I know I could not do what they do.

It’s no surprise that the world is, and always has been, a dangerous place. Personally, I remember the “duck and cover” drills in the ‘50’s where we practiced what we would do in the event of a nuclear attack. The answer was, cower in fear, which we did. My class one year was to go outside in the hall and cower next to a large wall made of glass brick. Even as a nine year old, I thought this was not the best idea I’d ever seen. We could have used my bank’s blank brick wall, but thank goodness it never came to that.

Dame Julian of Norwich, an English mystic who lived from about 1342 until about 1416, understood threat and upheaval. England during her time was visited by the Black Death, which took off up to half of the population. Peasants revolted several times during her lifetime, and the political situation was uncertain. Most people lived short, hard-working lives and never traveled more than eight miles from the place they were born. And yet, out of all of this, Julian wrote words that we can take to heart in our present situation: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”



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