We are simply not used to losing Americans to war.
Our country has an entire generation that knows war only as the precise surgical air strikes of the Gulf War, of the quick in-and-out operations that put the least possible Americans in danger. Few ground troops, and relatively low risk of casualties and fatalities.
For many of us the World Wars, Korea and even Vietnam are from another time, they don't seem part of modern American warfare. For decades now, our only exposure to the horrors of war has been through entertainment, not reality.
All of this makes the massive destruction of Tuesday's attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania all the more difficult for us to comprehend.
It will be days, weeks or longer before we know the final death toll from these hijackings and attacks. The reality and scope of lives lost will be difficult to fathom, they will be so great.
All across Fairbanks, as is certainly the case in communities nationwide, the talk now is of who we know that was directly affected. The old principal of six degrees of separation -- and the scope of the tragedy -- means that just about everyone can find some sort of connection. Fairbanksans are talking about it: a family member who lived near the World Trade Center, a work connection whose office was in the towers, a friend stationed at the Pentagon. We all have been checking on those we know, those we love, to make sure they are safe.
The Oklahoma City bombing was, until Tuesday, the worst terror attack we could imagine happening on America's soil. It was difficult to comprehend that 168 were people going about their lives one minute, dead the next -- right in the middle of America.
Now multiply those numbers exponentially.
As yet we have no clear totals, but already the number of passengers on the four hijacked aircraft alone outnumber those killed in Oklahoma City. Perhaps the most staggering and frightening figure so far is how few wounded were treated at hospitals. It can only mean few got out alive.
We are again at war, but it is clear this will not be the kind of war Americans have become accustomed to. It is a war where Americans became not only the victims of our enemy, but also the weapon of choice.
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