September 12, 2001 11:00 pm

If ever there was a time in the history of the United States for Americans to band together, this is it. Two days ago we witnessed the worst attack on U.S. soil in the countrys 225-year history. Most perplexing is that we dont know who masterminded the devastation. Meeting the challenge of a faceless enemy calls for new strategies in defense.

All we know at this point is that Tuesdays attack was the work of terrorists four hijacked airliners, three of which crashed into buildings. Thousands of people have been killed. With the exception of Pearl Harbor, nothing of the magnitude of Tuesdays attack has occurred in our lives.

But unlike Pearl Harbor, Americans watched it unfold. Minute by minute. Explosion by explosion. Shattered life by shattered life. We must not let the devastation caused by Tuesdays attack interfere with our commitment to democracy and religious freedom or our resolve to work toward a world free of violence and hate.

Retaliation is on the mind of every American. If only there was a specific target, we could hit it and we would all feel better. But we dont have a specific target. Not yet, anyway.

We must be calm, however difficult that might be. And we must look for new strategies in defense.

We can show the world our unity. We can show the world our commitment to our ideals. We can show the world restraint.

We are not barbarians like the people who exacted the damage on New York City and at the Pentagon. We can and should retaliate, but not until we know who to retaliate against.

In the meantime, we can expect our way of life to change. We will need tougher security measures at airports, even if they result in inconveniences to the way we travel. We will need a heightened awareness of national security, but not necessarily in the form of offense but in the form of defense. As we found out Tuesday, our biggest threat isnt from missiles, but rather from terrorist acts.

We live in the most powerful nation on earth, but one that weve suddenly realized is vulnerable to attack. Our comfort has been shaken.

Tuesday was a wake-up call. Our enemy is faceless. Not even the proposed missile shield would have protected us from Tuesdays attack.

America will make sure that democracy and religious freedom will persevere. But simply having the most weapons and a shield wont be a guarantee. As a nation we will have to come to terms with the fact that the face of war has changed. Terrorism doesnt play by the rules. We must do everything within our power to guard against it. And that means enhanced intelligence and security.

The time has come for a new mindset a real defense to go with our strong offense.