At press time, psychos had just plowed jetliners into two national symbols, a toll of more than 5,000 deaths was projected, and nothing commercial was moving through American airspace. Shocked Americans stood together as the world's nations — even some likely to have American blood still dripping from their hands — condemned the mass murder.

It was a terror operation as stunning in its complexity and execution as it was horrific in its results. After a decade in which hijackings had virtually disappeared as a concern in the U.S., these madmen managed to hijack four planes in just one hour.

The attack clearly demonstrated a level of sophistication and barbarity most Americans never expected to see on U.S. soil. In all the uncertainty following the attack, one thing was clearly certain — life in the 21st century will be much different than that in the 20th.

Immediately, all airports, financial institutions and national borders clamped shut. They reopened a few days later under greatly increased security. But even more and wide-ranging security measures were expected in the coming weeks — changes that would greatly alter day-to-day American life.

America was awash in red, white and blue. Americans embraced their families and leaned on each other for support.

Rightly so, President Bush called for the capture “dead or alive” of ringleader Osama bin Laden. And, he pronounced an unyielding war to eliminate terrorism once and for all.

Rural Involvement Is Needed

The enemy's first shots were fired in New York and Washington. Future targets, however, could lie well beyond big cities, government buildings and major airports.

Terror and disruption can come in ways much more insidious than commandeering aircraft and plunging them into population centers. Look at the terrible toll exacted by the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak still plaguing England. Consider the turmoil a similar outbreak would cause in a nation with a livestock industry the size of ours.

Federal, state and local agencies have beefed up considerably the surveillance and control programs for foreign animal disease outbreaks in recent months. The effort, however, still rests on quick identification, isolation and eradication.

That's just one area where rural Americans have a huge role to play in national security. Educate yourself on foreign animal diseases such as FMD. Be aware of suspicious behaviors in your locale.

Begin by learning the symptoms of FMD and other foreign animal diseases of concern. Start by visiting for comprehensive and up-to-date information. Just click on the “Foreign Animal Diseases” icon on the home page. In addition, USDA has an FMD hotline at 800/601-9327.

Or, see the June 2001 issue of BEEF for the insert “A Producer's Guide To FMD & BSE.”

What lies ahead is anyone's guess. America's courage, fortitude and resolution will be seriously tested in the coming months and years.

Before us, however, lies a job that must be done — the sooner the better, and once and for all. Terrorism, for whatever reason, cannot be allowed to continue in today's civilized world. The stakes globally are just too high.

We all have a role in the coming battle. Some will pay a higher price than others. All, however, must do their share by suffering the necessary sacrifices or inconveniences as gladly as we can and standing together to see the job through.

As terrible as the bombings were, they could in the final balance serve a tremendous purpose. The lives of several thousand good Americans and hundreds of nationals might well strengthen the will of freedom-loving people everywhere to finally stand together against this lawless evil of international terrorism.

Then, the lives of the 5,000 lost last month in New York and Washington, as well as countless other innocents all over the world, will not have been in vain.