Sometimes it helps to be lucky.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday that brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev decided on the spur of the moment, after their photos were released to the world as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, to drive to New York and detonate five pipe bombs and a pressure-cooker device in Times Square.
The result could have been ghastly.
But the plot was foiled when they carjacked an SUV that needed gas. When they stopped to refuel, said Kelly, the driver escaped and called police. Tamerlan wound up dead and Dzhokhar was captured later that day.
So a terrible crime was averted. But for many of us, a quiet sense of worry persists: What happens next time?
Among the many plots the NYPD has intercepted and neutralized since 9/11 was a 2010 attempt to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. Disaster was avoided when witnesses spotted the bomber's empty car next to a curb, parked and smoldering, and called police.
A couple of things are worth remembering:
While the NYPD has been criticized for hunting terrorists with excessive zeal, most often an aggressive stance is our best hedge against another attack. Roughly 1,000 officers are assigned to anti-terrorism work, and the city has wisely expanded the use of cameras and license-tag readers.
New York's regular appearance on terrorist to-do lists should tell Washington that it's time to stop playing pork-barrel politics with anti-terrorism money. Federal dollars should go where the threat is greatest.
While the NYPD can't foil every plot, a vigilant police force and public -- always on alert and always ready to mobilize -- are imperative in a place that's still the nation's No. 1 terror target.