When I was at Verizon Center last week for a Capitals game, the woman in charge of checking the contents of briefcases and the like of anyone entering the building early joked about the number of different colored tags attached to my bag.
"You've got a regular rainbow there," she said as she wrapped another tag around the handle to indicate this bag passed a security check and would not be the cause of any tragedy that night -- save for the writing on my computer.
That's what the simple throwaway tag represented -- security.
Seems like a futile gesture today.
Our secure world crashed down around us again Monday when several bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, injuring at least 170 people and killing three. Colored tags won't make anyone feel safer anymore -- at least while we live in fear that what happened in Boston will be repeated, until time passes and we put those fears in the place in our minds that has been reserved for terror since the Twin Towers came down and the Pentagon was hit Sept. 11.
Those towers and the Pentagon represented the symbols of America around the world.
But the heart of this nation resides in its sporting events and venues -- one of the last places we congregate in an era of technology that's turning us into kings of our isolated castles at home.
Sports are the religion of the United States, and arenas and stadiums are our mosques, temples and churches. One of the most powerful symbols of America's determination not to become prisoners to fear was President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium at the 2001 World Series.
I remember watching from the press box, looking out past center field at the high rise buildings in the Bronx and thinking that someone with a missile launcher on the roof could plant one right on the pitcher's mound.
Those thoughts dissipated with time. Security measures such as colored tags on briefcases became standard operating procedures -- terror-free tags.
Not now. Not today. And not tomorrow.
The Boston Marathon is a particularly unique event -- the most challenging, I would guess, to secure because it happens in the streets. But it wasn't a parade or a rally -- it was a sporting event -- and I would guess if you made a pilgrimage to the major sporting events in this country, the Boston Marathon would be on the list. So would the Super Bowl and the World Series.
If you are in Washington, a trip to a Caps game might be on your list. According to a release from Monumental Sports and Entertainment, here is what you can expect:
"As a result of yesterday's events in Boston and after consulting with local law enforcement officials, Verizon Center security will be enhanced for upcoming events."
Because this is where America lives -- at arenas, stadiums and the finish line.