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RETURN TO NORMALCY

The tourists aren't coming to Niagara Falls. They are keeping themselves and their dollars at home. The result: People are losing their jobs.

Score one for the terrorists.

The same is occurring all over New York -- in the Finger Lakes, in the Adirondacks and in Seneca Falls. Even in New York City, which surely has suffered enough in this national calamity, hotels are largely empty. Ditto the restaurants, the tour buses and the Broadway theaters. More jobs lost.

The airlines are suffering, as well. Passenger traffic has fallen as much as 50 percent since Sept. 11, when terrorists commandeered four planes in a nefarious plot that toppled the World Trade Center in New York City, opened a gash in the Pentagon and snuffed out thousands of lives.

The stock market took a beating last week as investors grabbed their money and ran. Consumer confidence is down and Americans aren't spending. State government has slowed to a crawl. There are fears of a worldwide recession.

Bull's-eye. If the goal of the terrorists who attacked this country was to undermine our belief that we can live our lives as before, then they are succeeding, at least so far.

That's no surprise, really. Americans have undergone a trauma that is barely imaginable in its intensity. One that began but did not end on Sept. 11. Recovery takes time, but in a case like this, it also takes fortitude. We're not talking about a broken leg here. This is a condition that to some extent can be overcome by sheer willpower, by the determination of individuals not to give in. If ever there was a time for Americans to demonstrate the orneriness for which they are known, this is it.

Government has an important role to play in that. It needs to take the steps that will allow airline passengers to feel safe again. That work is under way. It needs to tell Americans that it's all right to return, as best they can, to the routines of their lives. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has been making that point in a gentle way for several days now.

In the end, though, this is a task that rests on the shoulders of millions of individual Americans who will decide whether to go to a concert or to a ball game or whether to go ahead and put a new roof on the house or buy the car they had planned. Most difficult for many will be the decision to board a plane, but thousands have already done so since the airports reopened. JetBlue, the low-cost carrier that rescued the aviation industry in Buffalo, reports passenger loads are slowly rising.

The country faces a great task in rooting out the world's terrorist networks and in bolstering security at airports and other targets. We need to acknowledge the job ahead and honor those whose lives were taken. But it's time to move forward.

It's an odd thing when getting on a plane or just spending money is a form of patriotism, but with American military lives now at risk, the least the rest of us can do is to make clear to terrorists that they won't make us retreat into our beds or frighten us into a recession. This job does not belong to the military alone. Every one of us needs to have the nerve to live our lives.

Flags are back at full staff. The stock market is trying to stabilize itself and New York voters have finally gone to the polls. The potential for future attacks remains, and while we can never eliminate that risk, we can assuredly make it worse if we let terrorists believe they can cow us. Time to get on with it.

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