A blast on a warm Saturday night in Manhattan sent people running through the streets. More than two dozen were hurt. New York City, accustomed to living with the echo and shadow of terrorism, handled the shock with composure.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill, in his first full day on the job, were at the scene and said what they knew and what they didn’t. The Police Department secured the area, handled the evacuation and search, sent in the bomb squad and quickly found another apparent explosive device, a rigged pressure cooker, which was safely removed.
The city stayed calm. Twitter erupted, which is what Twitter does. Donald Trump told a crowd there had been a bombing and we had to get tough, folks. A sideshow battle blew up over who had been quickest to call it, as if this were some game show or reality TV. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has sequestered his reason and decency so he can flack for Trump, used the Chelsea neighborhood blast to attack Hillary Clinton on Sunday TV, darkly suggesting that she and her party, and the president, were somehow responsible.
On Sunday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, as de Blasio had the night before, that there was no evidence yet linking the bombing to international terrorism, though whoever did it clearly wanted to spread terror: “They want to make you afraid. They want to make you worry about going into New York City or New York state.”
The right response to this constant, unending, low-level threat of sudden violence is to stay vigilant and reasonable, to clean up the damage, care for the injured, look out for one another, and elect leaders who will address the challenge with sanity and good judgment. And avoid the wrong responses: A police-state overreaction would be equally damaging in its own way by adding to the intolerance and suspicion that can foster radicalization, isolation and hatred.
New York City, like the world, can be a dangerous place. Whoever placed an explosive device in Central Park in July that severely injured a tourist is still at large. Whether the Chelsea blast and pressure-cooker device are connected to a pipe-bomb explosion in a garbage can in a New Jersey town on Saturday morning is still unknown. On Sunday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack in a mall in Minnesota that injured eight people; the attacker was killed by an off-duty police officer.
There is no absolute solace in this anxious era. There is no honesty in promises to crack down and blow up other things and people and have our revenge, and to make everybody safe again. There is only the hard work of investigating, deterring and punishing attackers, and meeting the dangers with proportionate measures, courage and calm resolve.