"A terrorist’s guide to the Hoosier state

The folks down at Indiana Homeland Security must have been imbibing William Herschell’s paean to the Hoosier state when they set about the task of identifying sites that need to be protected from terrorist attack: “Ain’t God good to Indiana? Ain’t He, fellers? Ain’t He, though?”

It seems that as part of our country’s permanent War on Terror, all the states and territories were asked to come up with a list of potential terrorist targets for inclusion in a federal asset database. This exercise had a quality of free-play about it, in that the feds refrained from giving local Homeland Security officials specific guidelines about what might or might not be included on such a list.

Indiana, it’s been said, is a state that suffers from a kind of collective low self-esteem. “Why would you want to move here?” is a question that often dogs people who relocate to our state from places with mountains or seacoasts like California, Colorado or Florida. So you might have been forgiven for thinking that drawing up a list of local targets wouldn’t have taken our Homeland protectors much time. I mean, in a world as dangerous as this one, it’s always seemed to me that Indiana’s biggest asset was its lack of, well, assets.

In other words, why would a terrorist want to come here?

It turns out there are plenty of reasons — 8,591 of them, to be exact. And these were just the ones the federal government was willing to accept. Our Homeland Security officials were able to think of a couple thousand sites and events on top of that, but they were told this constituted an embarrassment of riches. Evidently we were making New York and Virginia feelbad.

When you think about it, this is really kind of sweet.

Indiana chose to identify more potential terrorist targets than any other state or territory. Once our Homeland Security folks started thinking about it, it seems there wasn’t anyplace in Indiana that wasn’t sacred. Although the actual list is still a secret, enough information has been leaked for us to know that it includes a popcorn maker, an ice cream parlor, a casket company, several Wal-Marts, a tackle shop, some nightclubs, a brewery and, thank goodness, a donut shop.

“Every disaster is a local disaster,” said Pam Bright, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, giving new meaning to our Hoosier sense of place. “We knew how we came up with our list. We looked at it in the other direction: Why wouldn’t the other [states] have more?”

Of course, it must be admitted that we Hoosiers are a rather fearful people. Indiana was one state that had a terrorism preparedness plan in place before Sept. 11, 2001. An inch of snow is enough to make us want to stock up on canned goods and bottled water, and the very idea of marriage between anybody but a man and woman sends shivers down our serially monogamous spines.

But we are proud. And so our list of agricultural assets leaves Illinois and Minnesota in the dust. Our 5,456 public health assets account for two-thirds the national total. The terrorists will know we honor our elders: We put 417 nursing homes on our list of possible targets.

Chicago may have the Hancock Building and the Sears Tower; Manhattan can brag about the Empire State Building. But we love our tall buildings, too. It may come as news to terrorists that we have 41 of these mighty monuments, 13 more than are listed by Illinois.

It just goes to show you that there certainly is more than corn in Indiana. While we can’t know exactly what’s on the official list of sites in need of protection, I suspect that every Hoosier has a list that comes to mind, a personal Indiana, as it were, that’s deserving of attention and that, were the unthinkable to happen, would forever compromise whatever it is we think of when we think of Hoosier-ness.

For example, no such list would be complete without Michigan City’s Blue Chip Casino. Where else can you lose $100 in less than 20 minutes? Then, in Huntington, there’s the Dan Quayle Museum honoring the former vice president whose debating style columnist Charles Krauthammer described as “shrill and annoying.” And Krauthammer was a fan!

There are towns with evocative names like Santa Claus, Buddha, Surprise, Bobtown and Bud. In Peru, one finds the Circus Hall of Fame and a favorite drive-in where they ladle chili into an open sack of Fritos and call it a “walking taco.”

Let’s hope that, from now on, an extra detachment of security will be discreetly assigned to the annual Mint Festival in North Judson.

Let terrorists everywhere take note: As William Herschell wrote, and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security has so generously affirmed: “Other spots may look as fair / But they lack th’ soothin’ somethin’ in th’ Hoosier sky and air / They don’t know th’ joys of Heaven have their birthplace here below / Ain’t God good to Indiana? Ain’t He, fellers? Ain’t He, though?"



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