Three years ago, New York City went black, along with dozens of other cities in the eastern United States and Canada.
A massive power failure sent millions of people pouring into the streets trying to figure out how to stay at work, head home, or do much of anything with no electricity. And immediately, fears arose that the crippling blackout might be the work of terrorists.
It was not, of course, but three years later many of the major systems we rely on for everyday life remain vulnerable. Protecting our electrical supplies, computer networks, transportation systems, our economy, food, and water, remains an almost overwhelming challenge for security analysts.
The simple truth is, in our free society, there is too much to protect. Just look at the sheer number of potential targets in Target America.
The United States has more than 6,000 power generating stations from coast to coast, transmitting electricity over a half million miles of bulk transmission lines.
There are 12,000 miles of coast, 141,000 miles of railroad lines, 11 major seaports, with a dozen more up the Mississippi.
America has more than 5,000 airports with paved runaways.
There are 47,000 shopping centers, attracting nearly 200 million Americans each month.
Cyber attack? This year, the number of Americans using the internet, according to the Computer Industry Almanac, hit 198 million.
How do we even count the public events in which we might be vulnerable to a mad bomber or group of crazed gunmen -- concerts, sporting events, conventions, worship services, political rallies?
And what about the physical sites that matter so much to our national identity -- the great buildings that mark our skylines, the monuments to our nation's history and honor?
Every security analyst I have spoken to for years has said the same thing: We can't protect everything, and one day terrorists will hit America again.
So if that is a fact, what should we do in the meantime? Are we doing enough to secure ourselves against the most pressing threats or are we doing too much, living in the darkness of our fear so much that the terrorists are already winning?