June 13

Regarding the June 11 Style article “In news media, ‘terrorist’ a term used cautiously”:

Americans do not understand the meaning of the word “terrorism.” The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not terrorism; no one went to work that day thinking that he or she might be murdered. It was a surprise attack, a Pearl Harbor for civilians.

My family and I lived with terrorism for the 14 years we lived in Beersheva, Israel. Living with terrorism meant walking my young children to school and kissing them goodbye as they ran past the armed guard at the gate. It meant walking past a Bedouin gardener to whom I have said hello for five years and wondering if that day he would shoot the guard and murder a bunch of children. It meant walking to work past a kiosk where terrorists had murdered two soldiers and, as my bag was checked for explosives, wondering if the woman in front of me was a Palestinian bomber. That is terrorism.

We moved to Rockville in August 2002. I was at a store in Aspen Hillwhen I saw on the TV a news helicopter flying around the gas station I had driven past minutes earlier. It was the first attack of the D.C. snipers. Their attacks became terrorism when people crouched and hid while putting gas in their cars and shielded their children from white vans as they waited for the school bus and put their schools on lockdown.

I could always tell the Israelis who stood tall in these situations. We knew that the only way to protect yourself was to live in seclusion. Israelis have learned to live day to day. It is an enormous emotional toll, and I pray that Americans will not have to live under these horrific conditions. As mass murders become more common, though, we will have to learn to put up with inconvenient but necessary searches to save more lives.

Burt J. Mazia, Rockville