It's the morning rush in the Times Square subway station, a routine convergence of humanity and mass transit that makes New York City hum. Mixing seamlessly with subway riders are New York Police Department officers with heavy body armor and high-powered rifles, commanders in blue NYPD polo shirts carrying smart phone-size radiation detectors and a panting police dog named Sabu.
"This is the new normal," Inspector Scott Shanley of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Division says. "The only people who sometimes get raised up are tourists."
Since terrorists brought down the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, subways have been bombed in terror attacks across the world, including in Madrid, London and this spring in Minsk, Belarus. The possibility that New York's sprawling, porous and famously gritty subway system could be next has become a constant worry — leading to a new normal of suspicious package alerts, bomb-sniffing dogs, cameras trained on commuters and passengers listening to the missive, "if you see something, say something."
The campaigns encouraging residents to report suspicious activity strike Manhattan writer Anne Nelson, 57, as Orwellian.
"New York is about expression and life and vibrancy," she said, walking through Times Square. "It's not about living in an atmosphere of fear."
But authorities here believe a serious attack on the 24-hour subway system with more than 400 stations, would potentially cripple the city in ways worse than the Sept. 11 attack — a concern shared in other countries reliant on mass transit and viewed as enemies by terrorists.
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