If the men who planted the white flags atop the twin towers of the Brooklyn Bridge meant to celebrate the 19th century majesty of a classic New York landmark, they failed. And if they wanted to honor the genius of John A. Roebling for his daring suspension design -- made of "wire rope" -- over the East River, they missed again.
What they did -- instead -- was to ignite new waves of unease about the city's security.
The German artists who admitted to the prank sound as if they simply failed to grasp the raw emotion the bridge still evokes in New Yorkers.
Here's a helpful reminder: When the bridge opened in 1883, it was considered an engineering marvel and an icon of New York City's global ascendancy. The German-born Roebling used steel cable -- which he invented -- to support a span stretching from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights.
Much like the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, the bridge came to symbolize New York and the spirit of America.
Then, on the morning of 9/1l, Manhattan wound up largely sealed off from the rest of the city. Police as far north as midtown urged pedestrians to walk over the nearest East River bridge for safety.
The scene on the Brooklyn Bridge was especially horrific.
Thousands of people -- covered in ash and blood -- tried to reach the downtown Brooklyn Marriott and other sites for first aid. Thousands of other refugees stood on the span and numbly watched as the Twin Towers and the structures around them vanished into an evil rumble of steel-melting flame and poisonous smoke.
But the Brooklyn Bridge -- then 118 years old -- endured as a lifeline. And the long story short is that New Yorkers today still see this structure as a vital link in our civic life.
We don't like anyone messing with it for any reason -- not even to honor the remarkable John Roebling.
Is there a saving grace? There should be. The flag prank -- which took place within shouting distance of NYPD headquarters at 1 Police Plaza -- exposed the perils of complacency that lurk nearly 13 years after 9/11.
Our beautiful bridge remains a terror target. Protect it.