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We were in Baltimore the weekend of the bicentennial commemoration of the Star Spangled Banner ("A spectacular weekend for Baltimore," Sept. 15). Walking the breadth of the Inner Harbor, we wanted to travel the short distance to Fort McHenry where President Barack Obama had visited the day before to witness the original of Francis Scott Key poem. But no such luck, and perhaps the reason should be noted 200-plus years after the nation's founding.

Both my wife and I were carrying large purses containing our wallets, food, an umbrella in the drizzle and assorted paraphernalia. That convenience kept us out of Fort McHenry. No bags allowed. No examination of bags. No place to check bags. We were simply too dangerous to view the National Anthem. This, 200 years after the battle that witnessed "the bombs bursting in air..."

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Everyone will draw their own conclusions. But to me, it's symbolic of the fear that has gripped the United States over guns and terrorism these last few decades, particularly since 9/11, but really before. Believe me, I know and understand that there are forces in the world which mean us harm. I get that. I understand every time I pass through the airport and TSA checkpoints. But Israelis have the same obstacles and even worse, but they do not limit their freedoms. Part of the courage of our convictions is to take risks to preserve liberty. Along with the now ever-present line, "If you see something say something," urging Americans to report the unusual and keep us all safe, a fear trembles in the gloom. Along with the 2,996 deaths on 9/11, Osama bin Laden succeeded in rattling the bones of America.

I don't want to die in a terrorist attack. And I can live without going to Fort McHenry, even on the 200th anniversary. But I'll be damned if I want to live my life in fear that some terrorist will shoot me or my family. We live in a dangerous world. We owe it to ourselves to take reasonable precautions. But fear, like vengeance, corrodes the soul and makes us wary of living. The Blue Angels flying overhead displayed American war-making prowess. But down below, we cowered lest an unknown assailant threaten us. Americans are bolder and better than that. Yes, it's a dangerous world and precautions are necessary, but we might reasonably ask ourselves, at what cost?

Rabbi Mark H. Levin, Prairie Village, Kan.

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