NEW YORK -- "We'll never be safe again, will we?" the young woman asked -- posing a question on the minds of many Americans as we mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. She was seated across the aisle on a flight to Washington. I guessed she might be in her late 20s -- about the age of some of my own children. She had been ahead of me as we passed through the TSA security checkpoint at JFK and had received the "full treatment" -- bags searched, explosives residue check, shoes twice through the X-ray, the "beeping wand," a pat-down, the works.
"Why do you say that?" I asked -- dodging her question with one of my own. It's an old talk-radio trick. When you don't have an answer -- ask a question. She had surrendered her lipgloss, hand cream, hair spray, perfume, a small tube of toothpaste and good bit of her portable personal privacy at the security checkpoint.
She shrugged and said, "there are just too many threats. Now it's liquids. What's next? Do you think we'll ever be safe?"
During the next hour or so on the flight to Washington we talked about whether Americans can ever feel safe again. She rarely flies. I fly somewhere almost every week -- and average more than a dozen flights a month.
For her, the horrible images of hijacked jetliners crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a farmer's field in Pennsylvania are a portent of more terror to come. For me, the attack is a rallying cry for Americans to fight back.
She believes Iraq and Afghanistan are inciting more attacks. I'm convinced that democratic outcomes in these places are both achievable -- and essential.
My traveling companion thinks that George W. Bush should be more conciliatory. I often think he should be more forceful -- particularly with the opposition here at home -- for it is here, not on foreign battlefields, that this war will be won or lost.
I hope the young woman across the aircraft aisle -- and other anxious Americans -- have been listening carefully to President Bush these last few days, for in his remarks he answers her question: "Can we be safe again?" And this time he's not pulling his punches.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.