The Paris attacks: A local perspective

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015

“All the preparedness in the world is not going to stop a person that is intent on giving his life for the sake of religion.”-— Charlie Fazende.

The terrorist attack on Paris changed the world overnight. Every time you logon to Facebook, the Internet, or even Twitter, the first thing you will see is #PrayForParis. When the TV is on, all networks feature stories about the refugees. We, as Americans, can most certainly relate to the grief that Paris citizens are facing. After all, we went through a similar attack on September 11, 2001. We, as Mississippians, often wonder…will it ever come to Mississippi, will it ever come to Pearl River County? It is a stressful thought for children, parents, and law enforcement, after all, the primary purpose of terrorism is to create fear within the enemy.

As an emergency manager, by profession, I preach preparedness on a daily basis. But, a statement from the Poplarville Chief of Police, Charlie Fazende, “All the preparedness in the world is not going to stop a person that is intent on giving his life for the sake of religion,” really hit home with me, because it is true. It has proven to be true, countless times. We have witnessed it through various incidents.

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I asked Fazende if the Paris attacks had made his personnel more aware or had caused them to increase their personnel, to meet tighter security needs. “We do not have the budget for more personnel, but, we have added heightened awareness to our daily checklist. As law enforcers we always have to be aware. We have to be prepared for any type of terrorist activity. Any large gathering is a possible target.”

Pearl River County has several large gathering areas, such as, schools, the community college, and churches. According to Sheriff David Allison, they have the staff to control a terrorist event at the college. “If someone detonates a bomb at the college, I am assured that we have the committed and trained personnel to organize and control the incident. We talk about these things – school shootings and bombings and we try to plan for it. We do not have the budget to increase personnel but we do have a SWAT team that is fully equipped and trained for this type of incident. We are always preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.” Being able to control a situation doesn’t mean that you can prevent it, but you manage the consequences.

When asked if he agreed with the Governor’s decision to try to keep the refugees from entering Mississippi Allison stated, “I definitely agree with the Governor. I think they should be kept out of the state and out of the country.”

As Mississippians, we are known for our hospitality and generosity, but there comes a time when we have to draw the line. Our financial system is already ripping at the seams. We have homeless families and veterans that can’t find jobs. How can we possibly add to our already overloaded financial system? Why should we?

Maybe we have to find some balance between common sense, generosity, and security. And, we most certainly have to be vigilant of our surroundings.

By Carolyn Nelson