Just how safe in the U.S. are we really?

Published 1:17 am Saturday, May 14, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - If you stop by the Country Cafe at the corner of Bell Street and U.S. 12, you'll be likely to find customers chatting over a steaming cup of coffee and a plate full of eggs and hash browns, discussing the latest events - both local and national. Such was the case on Thursday.
The day before a small private plane, apparently flown by a student pilot with an instructor, entered the no-fly zone above the nation's capitol which caused a brief, but harried evacuation of the area.
Although the incident seemed to be treated somewhat low-key by the media in reporting the event, a number of cafe patrons seemed to have definite opinions on the subject of the current safety level in the U.S. in regard to terrorism.
Climbing into his truck to head out after a hearty meal, John Bair of South Bend said, "It looked like they had some practice at this, or at least instructions on what to do. That's good. It's kind of scary, though. I don't understand why they crossed over that air space. I hope in the future the government will go to more extremes to prevent things like this from happening."
Stephanie Williams, a waitress at the cafe who bustled about taking care of her customers she knew by name, talked as she worked. "I thought it was strange they jumped the gun so quickly, evacuating the whole place. It was a big waste of time. You'd think they would know whose plane it was before all of that went down," she said.
Williams was serving food to three gentlemen at a corner table who were interested in the subject as well.
Richard Kemp of Niles said, "With all the security they have and all the money they waste up there (in Washington D.C.), they'd better check their security system. Some idiot might get around to it sometime, but they need to get somebody smarter (than the terrorists) or our security system is in trouble."
Phil Gray added, "If I was Bush, I'd be a little nervous."
Shannon Boyce, a cook at the cafe, said, "To me it's scary that they go to extremes like that. But I guess we'd be better 'safe than sorry.' "
At the Niles Post Office, people took time to give their opinions as they hurried in and out of the building. Luann Griese of Berrien Springs said, "I think it was good that we had the security in place and saw them, then followed the plane, then warned the pilot. I'm glad they didn't just shoot it down. And I thought it was interesting that the president was out bike riding at the time."
Moses Mwangi said, "It's very scary. We've got to do something about the students (pilots in training) not knowing what to do."
Kim Knoll added, "I'm glad they warned everybody, but I don't think there was really any threat."