SALEM — After eight days in Israel, Paul Tucker returned home with images and memories he says will stay with him a lifetime.
The Salem police chief was one of 15 law enforcement officials from the Northeast attending a counter-terrorism training program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
He visited three border crossings, the Wailing Wall and other religious sites, toured marketplaces and malls, and met with security, military and law enforcement officials across the country.
So what impressed him the most?
“The people,” he said.
Sitting in his office at Salem Police Headquarters, Tucker told stories about the people he met, people who have learned to live in a sometimes threatening and violent world.
There was a woman who was blown through the roof of a bus in a bombing, who has learned to go on.
Then there was the man who heads security at a large mall in Tel Aviv, who stressed the need to carry on under the threat of terrorism — a message Tucker heard over and over.
During a nerve-wracking period of bus bombings a decade ago, the security director said he and his wife had to decide whether to allow their three young children to ride the bus to school every day. They finally decided the children could ride, but not on the same bus.
“They weren’t going to lose all three (children)” to one bomb, said Tucker. “That really struck me as a parent. ... That’s pretty powerful stuff.”
It was the faces and conversations Tucker won’t forget, the stories of daily life from a determined people.
“Every person has an amazing spirit,” the chief said. “The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilient.’ There is a resilient spirit in Israel that’s not going to let (terrorism) disrupt their lives.”
Although Salem is far removed from Israel, Tucker said there were lessons learned that he hopes to apply here in a city that hosts a power plant, a university, an LNG tank and a busy bridge.
“I have a much deeper appreciation now for looking at our infrastructure from a security standpoint,” he said.
Salem also hosts thousands of visitors and probably holds as many large events as any community outside of Boston.
With those crowds, comes responsibility. Police must train and drill, he said, and be on constant alert.
“One of the things I learned is (the need to) fight complacency,” Tucker said.
The chief also was impressed by the officials from the ADL, a Jewish civil rights organization that organized and paid for the trip.
“They are a very good friend of law enforcement,” he said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.