But never, never did I ever imagine it could happen during my lifetime.
Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a plane which crashed outside of Pittsburgh, have proven not only to be the worst acts of terrorism this nation has ever seen, it also represents a loss of innocence for our nation.
No longer can we look at each other the same way again.
No longer can we feel completely secure walking down our streets or sitting at our office desks.
No longer can we read fictional accounts of terrorist acts or watch movies like "Independence Day" and wonder, "What if?"
We now know the answer.
We now know what it is like to see one of our long-standing centers of freedom and prosperity completely destroyed without any explanation.
We now know and can understand the shiver of fear that clings to your every step as you wonder whether or not you're truly safe.
We now know the terror that's evident in the eyes of anyone who has ever seen a war zone up close.
We know grief. We know sorrow. We feel pain.
But perhaps more importantly, we feel anger.
Anger because we might never know why the attacks happened.
Anger because those cowards have challenged the one thing we should never have to question: our safety.
Anger because we don't know who to blame and so we blame each other.
This was not supposed to happen.
Not in America, the land of the free. The land where millions of people have journeyed, hoping to escape acts of hatred and injustice found in some other nations.
This was not supposed to happen. Not here.
In various addresses Tuesday, President George W. Bush uttered words no leader should ever have to say.
He had to tell his grief-stricken nation that thousands of its people were gone, their lives "suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror."
Bush pledged to retaliate against the terrorists and restore a sense of calm and safety in our nation.
"Make no mistake -- the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts," Bush said.
During the past few days, members of Congress have forged a united front as they consider what should happen next.
"There is unity in this country, in the Congress and among the people of our country, just as after Pearl Harbor," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt told CNN on Thursday.
"We stood together and fought a common enemy."
"That's what we're going to do this time."
Congress considered a bill Thursday to provide emergency funding that could provide up to $20 billion for rescue and rebuilding efforts, protection against future terrorism attacks and to fund any possible retaliation.
But the question remains -- will that be enough?
Will retaliation really bring peace?
Is "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth," truly relevant and appropriate for a situation such as this?
Some say yes.
Others are not so sure.
But the truth is, we might never know.
But as we look back at this week's events, some facts have become painfully clear.
Thousands of Americans lost their lives.
Even more are injured.
Millions others mourn.
America, as a nation, is forever changed.
We have lost our innocence.
We will never be able to look at each other the same way again.
We can no longer sit back and wonder, "What if?"
We now know the answer.
Columnist April Bethea can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.