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Published on January 20, 1997


It is a natural human trait to want everyone to agree with you. Unfortunately, there are always those who want to force you to agree with them, or else. And there are those who want to forget about the agreement part, and get right to the ``or else.'' That's as good an explanation as any as to why I, 20 other Crain Communications reporters and

about 200 of our compatriots from the National Press Building got to stand outside in the late afternoon of Jan. 2, watching police and FBI agents cordon off the building as they removed four letter bombs and searched for others.

Apparently some readers of Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper, took offense at the editorials, and decided neither Al-Hayat nor any other newspaper should publish editorials—or anything else—ever again.

The evacuation itself was a treat for the adrenaline junkies among us—particularly since, according to the grapevine, any one of the letter bombs was capable of taking out five floors. And it was novel to have microphones thrust in our faces for a change.

But once we were outside, excitement was minimal. Forget the ironic plight of those who were itching to report the story but couldn't because their computer terminals, tape recorders and notepads were in the building. Even with squad cars and news vans surrounding you, standing outside gets old pretty quick.

After 40 minutes, I found a pay phone, called my editors, explained it was unlikely that any more work would get done that day, and went home. Some of my friends did the same; some stayed two hours until the building reopened, at 6 p.m., and celebrated their deliverance at the Press Club bar.

Things are reasonably back to normal now. We have security and I.D. checks in the front lobby, and some entrances to the building have been closed. So life becomes a little more constricted and uncomfortable—and, of course, uneasy.

Now they say the bombs would never have destroyed five floors—only the Al-Hayat office, and perhaps the offices next door.

Nice to know the carnage can be contained.

Until next time, at least.


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