May 9, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if you got a little something extra in your mailbox besides the regular stack of bills and the 37 different credit card applications? Up until this point terrorism has seemed to center on the east and west coast in our nation's most populous centers like New York and Washington. That was until last week when a number of pipe bombs were found in mailboxes scattered across the rural Midwest including stops in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska.

Authorities indicated this is not the return of the Unibomber, as these small explosive devices appear to have been manually placed in the boxes and not sent through the mail. The bombs have been accompanied by letters filled with anti-government rhetoric.

A total of 15 bombs were discovered in the three states. Not all were discovered by authorities, as the first devices were detonated by postal employees or the mailbox owners, resulting in six injuries. Officials have indicated a majority of the bombs were set up to detonate when the mailbox was opened. This has triggered many residences across the region to keep their mailbox doors opened.

First it was the fear of white powder, Anthrax, being delivered in our mail, now we must also be on the look out for explosives. The devices have been pipe bombs, measuring roughly one inch in diameter by six inches in length with wires, batteries and other detonation devices attached. Leaving your mailbox door open, or even going so far as to secure it in the open position, is not that big an obstacle. Then again the door is on the mailbox for a reason, to protect the owner's privacy and to preserve the mail from rain, snow and other bad weather.

We have metal detectors at airports, schools and other high traffic areas, but it may not be long before we have to run our mail through the x-ray machine along with our Halloween candy. The local drug enforcement canine units may have to work overtime at the post office. Either that or we could do like the old time mines and keep a canary in the mailbox. If the bird is not singing a sweet tune you'll know not to open that letter from Ed McMahan, even if it says you won the million dollars.

I suspect it will not be long before we have to have locked mailboxes. Of course if this causes as much financial strain on the postal service as the Anthrax ordeal, we may simply be forced to pick up our own mail at the post office. Can you imagine passing through airport-like security everyday just to send a post card to Aunt Ethel?

Hopefully this situation can be quickly resolved and mail service can go on uninterrupted, or at least as good as it was before the attacks. It is a shame that the crazy acts of possibly a single individual, or at best a small group, can disrupt the lives of so many. I think when they catch these folks their prison sentence should force them to spend every day they are rotting in jail licking at least 100 stamps an hour and opening and responding to every piece of junk mail they receive.

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