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Terrorist Thugs Won't Shut Down My City

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's telling that shortly after authorities lifted the "shelter-in-place" order, they had a major break in their manhunt.

Allowed to venture outside, a Watertown resident saw something and said something. For more than a decade after 9/11, law enforcement officials and our government have made this mantra something more than part of our culture.

And, lo and behold, it works when you allow it to.

Listen, I feel like a little man when I see the bravery of first responders and/or law enforcement on display. This has nothing to do with them.

Irrespective of the orders the powers that be give them, they get the job done like the badasses they are. As usual, though, I prefer to examine the bigger picture. And the decision to lock down an entire metropolitan area in the wake of a break in last Monday's Boston Marathon bombing investigation has real bigger-picture implications.

We must open the discourse because something like this -- or worse -- will happen again. And again. And again. How we respond goes a long way to defining us as a people. Again, on the ground, police, firefighters, investigators -- all involved -- will make certain we win in the end, but other than a heightened presence and pumped-up intelligence in the aftermath they don't set the societal tone. We do. In conjunction with the directives of our governments.

I remember watching a Canadian national news broadcast shortly after 9/11. I didn't save the clip nor can I track it down now, but I recall the gist of it. A government official riffed that if you want a truly "free and open society" you have to be willing to accept the risks that go alongside that desire. In other words, you can't secure every soft target, you can't take draconian measures with your own citizens and, maybe most importantly, you have to live and breath that "free and open" lifestyle 24/7.

This way of life comes with benefits, but it also sends a message to those who choose to kill an innocent child or an immigrant graduate student. The acts of terror you commit are absolutely not bigger than us. We will not cower in our homes just because we think you are armed, dangerous and among us.

While it certainly might have made sense to keep Watertown residents "safe" in their homes during the height of the week's post-MIT firefight, it made absolutely no sense to shut down the entire Boston metropolitan area, halt public transportation and cancel major sporting events because a seemingly malleable 19-year-old thug snuck outside a local/state police, FBI, ATF, Homeland Security -- you name the agency -- perimeter.

Was this the plan authorities had in place when they rehearsed the unthinkable? Or did the sweeping decision come down on a relative whim when all hell broke loose in Watertown? If it did, that's understandable, but still not sensible.

If there was so much danger in the area, not only in Watertown, but in Boston proper and environs, how can you justify lifting the shelter-in-place order? At the same time as law enforcement permitted residents throughout the metro to leave their homes they were telling the media they had no idea how the guy got away or where he was.

Logic dictates that if it made sense to keep people miles away from Watertown in their homes Thursday night/Friday morning, they should have stayed there for as long as the world's most wanted man since Osama bin Laden was unaccounted for. How could the same people who told everybody to stay inside justify letting them out when nothing had changed?

Again, I don't think they thought about what they did hard enough. While I understand that's a somewhat harsh and, for some, unpopular assessment during a time of national tragedy and anxiety, government needs to respond in a way that's not quite so extreme and ultimately ineffective on so many levels.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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