Posted at: 06/09/2012 11:37 PM
| Updated at: 06/10/2012 11:07 AM
By: Dan Levy
RENSSELAER - Anyone traveling near the Rensselaer Amtrak Station on Saturday night encountered a lot of emergency apparatus and personnel.
The good news is, it was only a drill. However, at a time when local, state, and federal officials wanted to test their terrorism response capabilities, responders might be wondering if or when they might be called to the Amtrak Station for the real thing.
Even though it was only a drill, every last responder needed to be thinking: what if?
"You don't know what's going on out there," said Rensselaer Police Sergeant Tony Nagengast. "You have to be prepared and the more you train the better you are."
The mock exercise simulated two different scenarios: an improvised explosive device and a hazardous material incident.
"You don't know what's going to happen, Sgt. Nagengast continued. "Terrorists or who ever it may be, what they're going to do, they're always changing their mind, with new ideas, putting bombs in a sneaker, all sorts of things."
All sorts of exercises kept occurring while passenger trains kept coming and going. Rensselaer Station was evacuated, a bomb scene was secured, there was a haz-mat set up, a medical response, and a law enforcement investigation.
But given that there has never been a terrorist attack at any American train station, some people might be questioning if drills are really even necessary.
"I don't buy into the America's-in-danger-of-capitulating-to-some-unknown-unseen enemy," said Del Lowery, an Amtrak passenger, about to board a westbound train headed home to Washington state with his wife. "I don't think it's likely at all. I'm one of those that think America is paranoid about terrorism. Politically, it plays very well. We're going to be safe, we're going to spend a lot of money and I'm sure a lot of people are making a lot of money."
"I would say more like New York City (is a more obvious terrorist target)," opined Jack Joseph, a New Hampshire resident on his way to Poughkeepsie. "It's a bigger populated area with more (terrorist) targets."
But even if Rensselaer is an unlikely target, keep in mind the largest terrorist attack ever in Europe occurred at the Madrid Train Station where 191 people were killed and 1,800 were injured on the morning of March 11, 2004.
So how likely is it that the drills being practiced and critiqued at the Rensselaer Station Saturday night will be used in real life?
"It's a good possibility," said Sergeant Nagengast. "That's why we do these. We do them because there's a chance they very well could happen, you just never know."
Several people have tried to calculate the odds of being killed in a terror attack on American soil. Some say the odds are 5 1/2 million to one, others put it at 20 million to one.
You are much more likely to be killed by lightning.