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SILENCE IN SEATTLE . . .

It would be easy to say that they're just too wimpy in Seattle, where officials canceled the traditional New Year's Eve celebration because of fears of how terrorists might ring in the millennium.

In one sense, of course, the critics are right. The terrorists won a minor victory with the decision to lock the gates to the famous Space Needle at dusk and prevent revelers from gathering there for the midnight countdown.

The move denies 50,000 visitors the chance to join in a communal toast that should celebrate all that is good in people. Instead, Seattle has become a symbol of all that we fear in people.

But it would be just as wrong to make too much of Seattle's reaction as it would be to second-guess it. Authorities there said they received no specific threats of terrorist attacks and were acting purely as a precaution.

But the arrest two weeks ago of suspected terrorist Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian national who had crossed on a ferry from Canada with a car laden with explosives, would be enough to give any reasonable person pause. Even more disconcerting, he reportedly had booked a hotel room near the Space Needle.

It's easy from a distance to say Seattle gave in to terrorism. But who among us would want to make the call allowing a party to be held in light of evidence that thousands of lives might be at risk? In fact, every major city -- particularly a border city like Buffalo -- has to be doing some of the same soul-searching that Seattle has undergone.

Yet the fact that celebrations here and in most of those other cities will go on as planned means that one city's concession to reality is no proof of national surrender. That, in itself, is worth celebrating as there was apparently no thought of canceling First Night festivities here.

Sure, there will be a few more cops and bomb-sniffing dogs around downtown this year. And there will be a special emergency operations center staffed by a variety of key decision-makers -- just in case. Revelers themselves also may be a bit more alert to anything suspicious as they watch the lighted ball drop down the side of the Niagara Mohawk Building.

But all of that is a small price to pay.

The reality is that life is nothing if not the process of adapting. Americans here and elsewhere will adapt to the terrorist threat and keep on doing what we do best: Enjoying and prospering from the openness that makes our society the envy of those who can't understand it.