February 18, 2010–Austin’s Oklahoma City Bombing

I have heard it said in the last day and a half that the attack on a federal building in Austin has “become Austin’s Oklahoma City Bombing.”  Luckily, only one innocent person was killed as well as Joe Stacks, 53, the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Echelon building in northwest Austin.

There were also thirteen people injured, two seriously.  One was treated in Austin, but one was injured so badly that he had to be flown to Brooke Army Medical Center’s burn unit in San Antonio.

This attack has hit home for me in too many ways:

  • I know the man who was injured so badly he had to be transported to San Antonio.  As of last night, he was said to not be expecting any surgeries and is planning to leave the hospital sometime next week.  He will then need 4-6 weeks of recovery before he is well.
  • Stacks’s house is one block away from some close family friends and just two houses down from someone else I know.  This home is two miles from my church.
  • The office building that was hit is about three miles from my dad’s office.  It is about five blocks from where I get my car serviced.  It is in the same immediate area where one of my friends worked last summer.
  • The spokesman for the Stacks family is an elder at my church and I know him very well.  He did not previously know the family; a mutual friend referred the family to him.

It just hit too close to home–almost too close.

In the last few years, I have wondered how a terrorist–or a disgruntled tax payer, in this case, could cause a lot of harm and damage without really being a ‘blip on the radar’ until after the event.  This is exactly what I thought of: someone with a private jet–owned or leased could take it and fly (below radar level if it is a longer distance) it into a building or landmark of great recognizability.

Only one thing is different in this case–it was in a nondescript building on a stretch of road that has many office buildings, hotels, and shopping center in the immediate area.

The Associated Press spoke to one aviation security analyst (see article here), Tom Walsh, said that terrorists would realize that small planes, similar to the Piper Cherokee PA-28 that Stacks flew, do not pack enough of a punch that they would want to attack with.

“I don’t see a gaping security hole here,” Walsh said. “In terms of aviation security, there are much bigger fish to fry than worrying about small aircraft.”

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