Published March 12, 2004
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Dave DiMeo (search) boarded a commuter train for New York on Friday with his wife and two daughters, determined not to let worries about the train bombings in Spain ruin the family's weekend getaway.
"Because of the security measures in this country, I feel very safe traveling wherever I go," said DiMeo, gesturing toward a police officer. "We need to show we're visible with our security. That in itself will deter the riffraff."
Amtrak and regional and municipal rail systems around the country increased security Friday after the terrorist bombings in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people.
Some railroad passengers said they had faith that U.S. security measures would keep them safe. Others were worried. And some had a fatalistic outlook.
"I don't think the extra security does any good, but they have to do it," said Barbara Bates of Brewster, N.Y., at New York's Grand Central Terminal (search). "If someone is determined to blow up the station, there isn't much you can do."
In the New York metropolitan area, officers and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled subway and train stations.
Connecticut train station workers and police kept watch for loiterers, unattended bags and illegally parked cars, especially in loading zones. Maintenance workers were told to remove trash bins or empty them more often.
"We clearly are focusing, as you would expect us to do, even more resources on the New York City subway system," Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said. "It goes to show we still live in a very dangerous world."
In Washington, officers in SWAT gear and bomb-sniffing dogs were dispatched to subway stations. Riders were asked to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious packages or people.
One Amtrak conductor in California, Larry Lindbloom, said the attacks in Spain scared him. He said trains in this country are "totally vulnerable."
"One of these days there's going to be a big orange flash and I'm going to walk back there and there'll be 20 dead, and pieces of arms and legs," he said. "Then all of these officials will come around and say, `Why didn't you do this? Or why didn't you do that?"'
Keith Moore, chairman of a union local that represents 214 conductors in Southern California and Arizona, said he feels secure because of security by Amtrak police and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies. Trying to prevent attacks like those in Madrid would require a complete overhaul of security procedures, he said.
"When you're hauling 500 and 600 people at a pop, how do you do it? We have a free system here where you can come in and out, so are we going to slow it down and have screening?" Moore said.
In the New York metropolitan area, Metro-North usually takes 39,000 commuters into New York daily from Connecticut and the city's northern suburbs. Ridership was down in some areas Friday because of spring break at area colleges.
Emi Lesure of New Haven said the bombings in Spain made her think twice before taking the train into New York for a graduate school open house. She said that it might be impossible to make train travel as secure as air travel, but that train passengers should at least have to go through metal detectors.
"They need to do something. These are wide-open targets," Lesure said.
In New Jersey, Jillian Cordes, a University of Delaware student catching a train to New York for a field trip, said the bombings in Spain "made me think how you can take anything on a train."
"Nobody checks anything, no metal detectors, no nothing," Cordes said.
Boston commuter Scott Purdy, 43, an insurance industry executive, said there is little people can do to stop terrorists.
"Looking around and spotting those who allegedly don't fit in doesn't work. You've got to do what you've got to do and hope for the best," he said.