Break the Chain Keep On Truckin'

Exclusive (10/12/2001) October 11, 2001 marked one month since the terrorist attack on symbolic targets in the United States that left more than 6,000 people dead. As a culture, we place a lot of importance on anniversaries and milestones, so it's no surprise that we started seeing a lot of rumors predicting further attacks around the eleventh.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Hey everybody,

Sorry for the mass email, but I got important news tonight. My dad works for FEMA and he's really involved with the goings on in NYC. He told me that within the last 24 hours, more than 30 Ryder, U-Haul, and Verizon trucks have been reported stolen across the country. The U-Haul and Ryder trucks were rented and then never returned, so they're considered stolen.

Many of them were rented by people of Arab descent. I don't mean to make any assumptions, and I certainly don't want to scare you, but I thought you all might like to know. Be wary of these vehicles, pay attention to them, and don't walk or park near them. He said to stay out of major public places if at all possible (Crossgates, the Pepsi, downtown Albany, etc.) because recreational sites would most likely be hit on weekends.

I'm sorry to cause alarm, but he told me it was ok to share this information. If you'd like to foward it to anyone you know, feel free, as there is a possibility it might save lives. I hope everyone is doing well, and give those you love an extra hug.

Jesse M. Ricablanca

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

We don't know exactly when this message started circulating, but guess it was around the weekend of October 6. Without a definitive date, the vague references to "tonight" and "the last 24 hours" are absolutely meaningless. Judging from the locations listed, the author is in New York state. The mention that the suspected renters/thieves were "people of Arab descent" seems out of place and is probably just a racial stereotype added to the letter after it started to make readers more paranoid.

Later versions of the letter have an added introduction paragraph in which the author indicates the information was confirmed and that "our internal security group" has identified other thefts as well. It also places the threats in and around Wisconsin.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

I was sent the attached message and thought I'd pass it on. Our internal security group has also confirmed this. Along with the vehicles below, we have reports that Federal Express vehicles have also been stolen. Some of these were in Wisconsin. You will probably here something on the news tonight about this. Keep your eyes open and be alert.

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

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First, we don't know whose "internal security group" this is. Second, Snopes.com heard from spokespeople from Rider, U-Haul and Verizon, who all firmly deny that any vehicle is unaccounted for or reported stolen.

It's perfectly reasonable that we are all scared. The scenario of an inconspicuous truck containing explosives sitting outside of important targets sounds familiar and feasible (and it should, it's exactly how federal building in Oklahoma City was attacked). On October 11, the U.S. Justice Department issued a statement that the U.S. should be on "high alert" for further attacks in the next few days. In the interest of national security, they've given few details, but assured that the appropriate authorities have been notified of any specific threats.

Unfortunately, when we don't have authoritative information, we give much more credence to rumors than they deserve. Some call this claim a hoax, others have called it unsubstantiated rumor. Whichever it is, chain letters about it only spread paranoia, fear and distrust - exactly what the terrorists are after. This warning could make undeserving targets out of legitimate truck users and leads us to suspect everyone who fits a profile.

It is vital that rely on and trust our government and traditional media to give us the information we need. It's also important that we make sure we only share information that is valid and has some value other than to create fear and anxiety. Break this Chain!


References: Snopes.com

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