At a Seattle town meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge yesterday, moderator Frank Sesno asked for a show of hands from those who would volunteer to help out with homeland security, not specifying how. The Seattle Times reports that of the 400 in attendance, only a handful lifted their arms. Sesno seemed taken aback, as did Patricia McGinnis of the nonpartisan Council for Excellence in Government, which sponsored the session. Similar meetings in Boston, Houston, San Diego, and elsewhere did not produce such a tepid response. The Rev. Stephen Sundborg, president of Seattle University, said that “the reluctance to volunteer is an issue of credibility with homeland security. I think we’re having a hard time sorting out the threats against the U.S. with the underlying problem of how we’re viewed outside the U.S.”
The Seattle meeting was the last of seven across the country sponsored by the Council, which will send recommendations to the Homeland Security Department next month.
“I think I speak for a lot of younger people when I say we’re more afraid of getting hit by lightning than we are of terrorist attack,” said a recent graduate, Paul Thomas. “We’re more afraid of the Department of Homeland Security.”
Ridge responded that “the threat is very real.” A.D. Vickery of the Seattle Fire Department said, “The bad news is on the big target, we’re at the bull’s-eye. … If I were on the dark side, rather than the good side, I would look at Seattle as a target.”
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled a pilot project by Microsoft that would allow school districts to quickly notify parents electronically in the event of an emergency.