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Terrorists cannot win in America

The four victims are buried. The dozens who were badly injured are recovering. The blood has been washed off the streets in Boston.

In the 11 days since the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I am more convinced than ever that these kinds of attacks will never bring America down – much less change the way we live.

Terrorism is psychological warfare. It is intended as much to inject fear as it is to inflict casualties. Terrorists want us to think twice about boarding a bus, going to a ballgame or gathering at a street festival. The only way they can “beat” us is if we let that happen.

I don’t see it. Not after what happened the past 11 days. Not after what I have seen in the 11-plus years since 9/11. Even if there are more “Bostons” across the country this decade, I don’t think our collective knees will buckle. I think we will only stand taller.

Look at what happened in the days after the bombs burst in Boston. Instead of cowering in fear, 17,565 people went to the Bruins-Sabres hockey game – with the suspects still on the loose. Days later, 35,152 went to Fenway Park. The spectator-sung anthem at TD Garden was no less than a collectively upraised digit to terrorism.

Residents provided cops with leads and willingly opened their homes to police searches. Across America, people went about their business. Prime suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev may have thought the bombings would leave us quivering like Jell-O. If anything, I think the attack stiffened our spines.

“The whole tenor of reaction in Boston was, ‘No way are we allowing this to happen,’” said retired FBI Special Agent John Culhane. “When was the last time masses of citizens routinely allowed cops to search their homes?”

Now an instructor at Hilbert College, Culhane specialized in counterintelligence while with the Buffalo FBI office.

“As a country, we tend to come together in a crisis,” he told me. “Intimidated? Not even close.”

Despite their Boston “success,” make no mistake: Terrorists are taking a beating. Since 9/11, America has become a far tougher target. This was the first Islamic-related terrorist bombing on U.S. soil since planes toppled the Twin Towers – and it was of vastly lesser proportion. They cannot shake our nerve if they cannot hit us, hard and often. I don’t see it happening.

Culhane said thousands of counter-intelligence officials track everything from cellphone use of suspected terrorists to suspicious bank transactions. The CIA reportedly had Tamerlan Tsarnaev added to a U.S. counterterrorism watchlist 18 months ago – but he apparently was not listed on the FBI’s main database.

“We are not perfect,” granted Culhane. “But we are a lot better than [pre-9/11] at the border, and we get a lot of cooperation from other countries. We can thwart things overseas, before they even get here.”

And when a homegrown threat like the Tsarnaevs slip through the cracks, it merely opens our eyes wider.

“It’s not like people will be looking over their shoulders [in fear],” said Culhane. “It’s more like they will be looking for a bag that shouldn’t be there. The next Turkey Trot, even more people will have an eye out.”

America, on guard. In Boston, in Buffalo, across the country.

Are we concerned? Sure. Afraid? Never.