Schell's no wuss

PAUL SCHELL was right. It seems like it was only yesterday that the already WTO-scarred Schell got called a coward—and worse—for canceling the millennium celebration at the Seattle Center. His action was based on the seemingly outlandish and far-fetched claim that terrorists might bomb the Space Needle.

Denied their right to party, the populace howled. The New Year's Eve flap even prompted the first stab in the back (of many to come) from his former pals at The Seattle Times, who jabbed the mayor with a cutting New York Post-style front page headline: "Schell: 'I am not a wuss.'"

Does the concept of an attack on the Space Needle sound far-fetched now? Hours after terrorists crashed jetliners into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the Needle (our city's own iconic structure) was evacuated and placed under guard. Even the comments that Schell made after the millennial cancellation sound prescient now.

"In New York and D.C., people are comfortable with risk," Schell told Times reporter Jack Broom the day after the shelved celebration. "When people step on the street in Paris, London, and New York, they know there's a certain level of risk. I don't think that's true in Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, or Minneapolis . . . clearly in Seattle we're [becoming] an international city, and we have to get used to it."

Could the attack help the mayor's re-election campaign? Perhaps. Schell already felt vindicated by the conviction of Ahmed Ressam, the Algerian terrorist whose arrest at the Canadian border two weeks before New Year's Eve 1999 started the whole controversy. Schell and his wife, Pam, posed for a gag photo lampooning the cancellation as part of his series of humorous preprimary advertisements.

But for all of us Seattleites who give Schell a hard time for always seeming to be ambushed by events, for one day at least, we know just how he feels.

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