One of the few benefits of old age is that you have a perspective on life that younger people don't have. You have been there and done it-often many times before. In addition, those of us at least as old as the baby-boomer generation have heard advice and arguments repeated during life. There are slight variations, but essentially the same message is replayed.

I recall when I was in elementary school being instructed to duck and cover if an atomic bomb went off nearby. I dutifully did as I was instructed and was assured that I would be safe from the fireball, explosion, and radioactive maelstrom that would consume everything miles from the epicenter of the blast. In hindsight, that advice was stupid. Had an atomic bomb gone off in the vicinity, I wouldn't have had the time to duck and cover before being incinerated into infinitesimal bits of radioactive dust.

It has been nearly a lifetime since I ducked and covered to protect myself from the Cold War version of terrorism. Today, I am being told to select a room in my house, which I can seal off with duct tape and plastic sheeting to protect my wife and me from this 21st century version of angst. My problem is that we are in the final stages of construction of our new home. I hope that the terrorists wait until we get settled in and have time to prepare for the 2003 version of the duck and cover routine.

In addition, I wish that the Office of Homeland Security would have warned me before this so that I could have incorporated into our construction project another relic of the past-the bomb shelter.

I will have to settle for second best protection plan-duct tape and plastic sheeting at this point in time. However, one of the things that the Office of Homeland Security forgot to add to their list is the stockpiling of toilet paper. I always have several months supply of both toilet paper and paper towels safely put away in closets and pantries-much to the consternation of my wife and family. When asked about my larder of paper products, I always retort, "I'm prepared in case there is a war." Well, war may be in the offing.

In this transitioning time frame between now and our moving day, I fear that I will be caught with my toilet paper supply down. My wife doesn't want to have to move my stash of paper products from the old home to the new one. It should be noted that I get a little antsy when my supply dips below the hundred mark of either paper product. For several months, I have been under a strict embargo from buying any paper products until after moving day. I know what Saddam Hussein feels like suffering under an oil embargo. I protest this prohibition, and I tell her that we might be caught with our paper supply down if the war occurs between now and when we move. It doesn't seem to trouble her at all, but this situation has caused me several sleepless nights filled with worry.

In addition to my insomnia over running out of toilet paper, many Americans, young and old alike are worried about the threat of terrorism. The reality is that we do need to keep our eyes open for suspicious people or things. Who knows, you may find yourself sitting next to a future shoe-bomber.

Of equal importance and while our eyes are open, we need to get a collective grip upon ourselves. Yes, there are those out there that want to wage a war of terrorism against Americans. There want to kill some and cause all others to live a living death of fear and trembling. The government will have to protect us from attacks like 9/11, but we need to protect ourselves from doing ourselves in by wallowing in a tide of timidity. When we don't know the future, we ought to look to the past. History teaches us something: we have gone through many national dark days-some of which far darker than this twilight of terrorism. Take heart. Be strong. Buck up. We shall overcome.

As for buying duct tape and plastic sheeting, go out and pick up your ration of anti-terrorism supplies. Hell, you can always use the tape around the house for loads of project and the plastic as a drop cloth to protect the carpet when painting your living room. However, while picking up the duct tape and plastic, don't forget several dozen rolls of toilet paper and paper towels. Always be prepared.