Copyright 1995 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe
May 13, 1995, Saturday, City Edition
SECTION: EDITORIAL PAGE; Pg. 10
LENGTH: 340 words
HEADLINE: The Unabomber's shadow
The authorities announce that two Massachusetts scientists received warning letters from the Unabomber, and the daily tension quotient ratchets up a few more notches. It had been high enough after Oklahoma City, after Brookline, after New York. Strange how the once benign names of places can become synonymous with terror.
News of the letters chills Boston science. If Nobel laureates Phillip Sharp at MIT and Richard Roberts at New England Biolabs Inc. can be singled out, everyone is vulnerable. Academics are afraid to be quoted in the paper. "Who knows who reads what," says one scientist. A researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health says the danger now feels personal. "I realized, 'Gee, I know these people,' " he says.
The worry extends beyond science to executive suites, cubicles, reception desks and mail rooms throughout the region. That mundane yet pleasurable business of grabbing the morning mail from the slot is no longer quite so casual. "Who do I know?" people wonder. "Could my name be on a hit list?" The thought is at first dismissed as ridiculous but creeps back into the consciousness, particularly if there's a fat letter in the pile scrawled by hand with no return address. Such is life under the shadow of The Nut.
There seem to be so many of them now - political, apolitical, loners, losers and groups of nuts. They target individuals or symbols or both. They come to mind every time we get on a plane or walk into a government building or see the doctor or just walk down the street. "What if some nut . . ." begins the sentence, unfinishable, unthinkable. We resign ourselves to acts of God but can't come to terms with acts of the devil, of man.
A person wonders if America's Wild West could have been worse than the allegedly sophisticated 1990s. Surrounded by intricate security systems protecting home, office, phone, computer and car, we still do not feel safe. Supposedly relaxing in the post-Cold War era where nuclear annihilation is no longer a threat, we still fear the bomb.