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US Goes on High Alert Status For Terrorist Attacks - 2003-03-19


Americans woke up Tuesday morning to a changed world. Even while President Bush delivered his speech last night, the nation changed its assessment of terrorist threats to high risk or code orange. National Guard troops across stand outside sensitive sites across the U.S.

Americans feel the change whether they live in big cities or small towns.

In Columbus, Ohio, waitress Diane Warren’s customers are uneasy. “There’s a sense of insecurity," she said. "There’s this sense of what’s going to happen next and what should I do now in my personal life to prepare for that.”

Many Americans are having the same thoughts. “It plunges us into more fear and more concern because we don’t know what the consequences of the war will be,” said Jerald Jellison, a University of Southern California psychologist.

War is the worst possible news for an already beleaguered airline industry. “From the airlines' perspective, we’re already at war," said James May of the Air Transport Association. "We’re seeing significant double digit decreases in current and future bookings.”

War could cost the state of Florida $4 billion in tourist dollars. Some worry it could keep the U.S. economy from recovering. “I would think that if this does not go well, if we’re still engaged in a battle a month or two down the road, that we will be in the middle of a full blown, outright, very debilitating recession,” suggested economist Mark Zandi.

Even in small towns, people are uneasy. “Anything that affects America, affects even a small town,” said Heather Mill of Bourbon, Indiana.

The prospect of war is also sobering for the young. “We have a lot of classmates that have enlisted," said student Ashli Senff. "Thinking you may never see them again really brings reality. It hits home.”

One fifth of Bourbon’s police force is in the Persian Gulf. Todd and Jami McIntrye’s son, Ben, is there. “The chemical warfare part of it really scares me more than anything," said Jami. "I feel he’s trained to do what he’s supposed to do, but we don’t know what they’re going to do.”

But Americans support their troops, and many support the mission. “We know we need to go to war, but we don’t want to,” said one citizen.

In the United States right now there is significant anti-French sentiment because of France’s prominent opposition. “Treating the United States by the way they are doing it, the only thing they are doing is giving power to Saddam Hussein, which is a threat to the world," said one protester. "It is not a threat only the United States, it is a threat to them.”

Today the French ambassador said if Iraq uses chemical weapons, that would "change the situation completely," and his country might re-think its position on war with Iraq.

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