WE'RE AT WAR, BUT EXACTLY WITH WHOM?

September 12, 2001 12:00 am

The younger generation that never fully understood the emotional impact and shock that Americans felt following Japans attack on Pearl Harbor can relate to some of that horror and anguish as a result of Tuesday mornings terrorism in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Americans were sickened and saddened when they saw terrorists crash two planes into the World Trade Centers twin towers and another airliner into the Pentagon. A terrorist-commanded airplane also crashed Tuesday morning some 80 miles south of Pittsburgh. The total loss of life was expected to be catastrophic.

America is at war. But with whom? At least at Pearl Harbor it was soon clear who was responsible. It was easy to see that the United States had to retaliate quickly and effectively against Japan.

But terrorists? Who are the individuals that orchestrated Tuesdays madness? And where are they now?

Can we quickly locate them in some building in some far-off city and drop a bomb on all of them? Or are they hiding in the shadows, perhaps even on the streets of New York? Will it be months, or even years, before all those involved in the hijacking conspiracy are known and apprehended?

What grievance against the United States could be so great that terrorists would be willing to sacrifice their lives while killing thousands of innocent people in the process?

Tuesdays attacks will undermine Americans confidence in their airport security systems. How were terrorists able to board four planes? Were weapons involved in the hijackings? How did knives or other weapons get beyond the metal detectors and X-ray machines?

And why were planes able to fly so close to New Yorks skyline and the Pentagon to pull off their surprise attacks?

Will measures be taken to detect wayward aircraft before they strike their targets? Will U.S. intelligence improve so terrorists are stopped long before they implement their deadly plans?

flags are flying at half-mast across America. Thousands of families are grieving the loss of loved ones in the World Trade Center towers, at the Pentagon and on board the airplanes. Our leaders are working to come up with some explanations why the unthinkable occurred.

Tuesday was a sad and solemn day for our nation. It may never be fully possible to prevent another terrorist attack, but we must learn from what happened and respond. All government resources must be employed to find answers. We must work to create a safer environment. We must work to pursue the perpetrators until each one is brought to justice.

Our nation is at war. Our innocence has ended. Were just having a hard time knowing where to point our guns to retaliate.