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Terror threat a harsh reality for rail riders

(The following article by Nicole Martinez was posted on the Daily Item of Lynn website on September 11.)

REVERE, Mass. -- The five-year anniversary of a day that changed the way many people view the world is today, and many are taking the time to review how safe they really feel.

A legislative report released on Friday said the Massachusetts Bay Transity Authority must do more to beef up its security against a possible terror attack. The report said the MBTA should hire 100 more patrol officers, which will cost the state about $5.4 million, and improve communication between first responders.

The report says that while the MBTA has taken steps to improve security in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and last year's train bombings in London, more needs to be done.

Waltham resident Janet Ritcter said she somewhat agrees.

"It's been tough knowing that everything with Sept. 11 started right here at Logan Airport," she said Sunday as she prepared to ride on the Blue Line. "And we know that at any time, something can happen again."

When asked what she felt about the security factor in the train stations, she said she felt safe, but still worries.

"I do feel like I can continue taking the trains," she said. "I was hesitant at first, and I'm sure others were, too, but we can't let our lives stop because of it. They win that way."

The thought of hiring 100 more patrol officers, Ritcter said, will definitely help, especially around the anniversary of Sept. 11. But she also feels that if another terror attack is going to happen, it's going to happen.

"They (the terrorists) know what they're up against," she said. "They got caught in England. They know we're working hard to protect ourselves."

Winthrop resident Earl Parlow said he never stopped flying or using public transportation, but fears for his family the most.

"I will never stop using the things that we, as Americans, have been given the freedom to use," he said. "But I know that these people are relentless, and they'll keep trying."

And as far as feeling safe in the city's subway system, Parlow said he keeps his eyes open for anything suspicious, and feels that the MBTA workers are doing a "pretty good job."

"Yeah, we can always use the extra protection," he said, referring to the hiring of 100 more officers. "I'll still use it, though. It won't stop me."

One person who disagreed was Somerville resident Cathy Coale. She said she uses the trains as little as possible, although sometimes she can't help the ride.

"My mother lives in Revere, and I don't drive," she said. "So I come out here to see her once every two weeks, and that's only because I hate using the trains."

She said she has a "major fear" of being under ground and so vulnerable to something happening.

"The bombings in Europe have been a real eye opener for me," she said. "I know I'm letting it get to me, but I value my life. And I don't want to give them any way of getting to me."

According to the report, more training exercises are being urged, especially at subway stations with deep tunnels, including the Red Line's Porter Square and Davis Square stops, where Coale lives.

"That makes me feel better, but I'm still worried," she said.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the MBTA has exactly the same number of patrol men and women -179 - as it did five years ago and will add another 15 after a graduation ceremony tomorrow at Boston's Faneuil Hall.

He also said that the MBTA has increased the number of higher-ranking officers. After tomorrow's ceremony, he said, the total number of MBTA security officers - from the chief to patrol officers - will have jumped from 231 to 263 since 2001.

Pesaturo said that while the MBTA would welcome additional support from the Legislature, it has taken other steps to boost security in the past five years.

He said the agency has installed intrusion detection systems, has created the "see something, say something" public awareness program and increased the number of K-9 units capable of responding to reports of suspicious packages.

The MBTA also conducted full scale emergency drills, including a mock bioterrorism exercise at Alewife Station with first responders from Somerville and Cambridge.

"I would defy you to find another transit authority in the country that has hardened its system against terrorism as much," he said.

The MBTA is also close to buying a key communications system upgrade that will allow the Boston fire department and transit police to talk to each other deep in the subway tunnels.

Monday, September 11, 2006

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