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A nation on alert can put life on hold

On a recent night I awoke in terror from a couple of seemingly loud bursts of noise. Finding eerie silence, my first thought was, "The terrorists have hit us."

This thought stemmed from the reports to be on alert for possible terrorist attacks in the next several days. But then I realized that the power had gone off and those "loud" noises were just my husband's cell phone charger letting us know the electricity had been knocked out.

But because of the events of Sept. 11, I was unable to sleep, wondering why the power went off on a completely normal night _ no storms brewing and nothing else I could think of except terrorism.

Now I was anxious and worried and needed to find out what was going on, so I got up and got a flashlight. I wanted to look outside, but I was scared to go outside and be exposed to something toxic _ but what could that be? So I checked outside and there was nothing but blackness and unnatural silence _ unnatural because we are so used to air-conditioners buzzing and street lamps humming. None of that familiar noise existed out there.

I went back inside, figuring the less time outside, the better. I was still in a state of alarm and unsure of what to do, but also was feeling a little overreaction on my part. I picked up the phone. Yea! I think we haven't been hit because the phones work and the phones wouldn't work if we were hit _ would they?

I called the power outage line and reported our electricity was off. It was only 2:45 a.m. and the recorded voice on the phone said the power would be back on at 5 to 6 a.m. I felt a little better, but not completely safe.

My husband was a little annoyed at my reaction and told me to go to sleep. I didn't fall back asleep until 3:30 a.m. when the power came back on. Then I knew I would be safe. It's strange what comforts you.

We live in Florida, so we are used to hurricanes. You get a report that one is coming, so you prepare. Then you get another report that it is not going to hit your area, but possibly south of you, and then it either hits you or it doesn't. You have to be prepared, but you have to keep on doing what you are doing or you have lost precious time actually living your life.

Basically, our whole nation is under a hurricane warning. You can be prepared and alert and hope that we are a strong community of people _ we are _ and if something happens, you have the support and strength of those people.

But if, God forbid, it should happen again, make it smaller and less painful by being aware, not anxious, not panic-driven and certainly not controlled by it. Panic ruled my life for a few hours for nothing. Don't let the terrorists get the best of us and take the life out of our living.

_ Courtney Berry lives in Clearwater.