U.S. Park Police Chief Teresa C. Chambers says that the tractor-man melodrama came to a successful conclusion ["Patience Paid Off, Police Say; Nonviolent End to Mall Drama Proves Tactics," Metro, March 20].

Oh, really?

Gruesome commutes inflicted enormous stress on thousands of innocent people. An already jittery city was given a disturbing glimpse of its vulnerability and its leaders' inability to cope with even a minor threat. Terrorists and fruitcakes the world over now know that a single nut can paralyze the capital of the United States -- just the message we want to be sending in wartime. Hundreds of police officers were taken from other, presumably important duties for several days.

If this debacle was a success, I'd hate to imagine what Chief Chambers would consider a failure.

PETER WINKLER

Washington

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The gridlock and near-shutdown of Northwest Washington caused by the closure of Constitution Avenue is something that Washingtonians should be used to. After all, this is what Pierre C. L'Enfant planned for, only in reverse.

The grid system, with its roundabouts and wedge parks, was designed as a way of defending the city against invading armies. Rumor has it that in 1814, British forces became so frustrated trying to negotiate Dupont Circle that when they finally got out of that mess, they torched the White House.

MICHAEL RESNICK

Arlington