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Don't Drop Your Guard, America

September 7, 2003
by Muriel Dobbin, News Tribune Washington Bureau
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)

WASHINGTON - The day that changed America two years ago bequeathed a legacy of dark memories and a recurrent fear that the first major terrorist strike on the U.S. mainland would not be the last. As we approach the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, when thousands died as terrorists crashed hijacked airplanes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a western Pennsylvania field, the nation still struggles with the question of whether actions taken by the government since have made America safer. And if we're safer, are we safe enough?... ...A warning of the possibility of terrorism overwhelming the public health system was sounded by Shelley Hearne, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health advocacy group now preparing a "scorecard" on the need to upgrade state services. In a report in June, the Trust for America's Health described as "unprepared and overwhelmed" the nation's public health laboratories, which serve as front-line defenders in the case of bioterror attack. Noting that such laboratories were responsible for identifying any chemical weapons used in an attack, the report said that despite being overwhelmed by the demands of the anthrax crisis following 9/11, federal support was still lacking.

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