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Outside Washington, at least, there is consensus. In New York City, police commissioner Ray Kelly says the city is still waiting for $900 million it has requested from the feds, some of which would go toward training police officers. "We are continuing to ask Washington for that money," he says. In Detroit, a critical node of homeland security, given its heavily trafficked border and large Arab-American population, city officials say they have spent $10 million on helicopters, protective suits and beefed-up border patrols. But other needs, including a communications system that would allow the city's emergency teams to talk with one another and their Canadian counterparts, have been shelved until federal help arrives. Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says he has pleaded for more money. "It's very frustrating," he says. Smaller cities have fared even worse, with many forced to spend money on basic equipment they expected the feds would pay for. Says Donald L. Plusquellic, mayor of Akron, Ohio: "If you had told me when we met with Bush that it would now be some 500-plus days since Sept. 11 and we would still not have this money, I wouldn't have believed you."
And yet in small and even heroic ways, officials across the country have thrown themselves into roles as the country's new defenders. Officials in rural Hardin County, Ohio, purchased a portable decontamination shower and are planning to simulate a terrorist-sponsored train derailment to test the danger posed to the area's local chemical facilities. In Iowa, state officials have held eight-hour seminars with farmers on the possibility of "agroterrorist" attacks on the food supply.
But do citizens in Akron and Hardin County have any real reason to believe they could be hit next? The Administration's duct-tape alert had the perhaps counterproductive effect of suggesting that every household should consider itself a target--even while prime targets went undefended. "These threats are real," says Brian Jenkins, a terrorism expert at the Rand Corp., "but the increased probability of a terrorist attack does not increase the risks to any single individual." At the same time, even strengthening our defenses won't deter terrorists forever. The truth is, we probably have no way of knowing whether the country is prepared for the next attack until after it occurs. --Reported by Timothy J. Burger, James Carney, John F. Dickerson, Viveca Novak, Elaine Shannon and Michael Weisskopf/Washington, Maggie Sieger/Detroit, Leslie Whitaker/Chicago, Steve Barnes/Little Rock and Leslie Berestein/Los Angeles, with other bureaus