What seemed like just another day actually wasn't

So much for a normal Wednesday morning in Charm City.

In the third-floor studio, Chip Franklin looked tired from two days of discussing the attacks and their aftermath. News anchor Bill Vanco was a co-host of the show with him. When I asked the two to characterize the tone of the callers, they said there had definitely been an outpouring of patriotic fervor, but that most of the dialogue had been level-headed and fairly restrained.

"There doesn't seem to be a well-spring of anger in terms of 'Let's go level Afghanistan,' " Vanco said.

"Did you hear that one guy, though?" Franklin asked me. "He said: 'I wanna go over there and kill 'em' and [defile] their graves.' "

While I was there, Mark from Bel Air called. In a quavering voice, he said: "Hi, Chip, I hope I can hold it together as I talk to you."

Then Mark explained that his father was a World War II survivor, and that Mark had been filled with shame after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon - ashamed, apparently, that the country was not better prepared, intelligence-wise, to thwart the terrorists.

Then, Mark said, he went to his father and said: "We let you down."

I stayed for another 45 minutes, long enough to hear Dan from Baltimore say of the terrorists: "There's only one way to stop these people, and that's to remove them from the face of the Earth."

But his voice was curiously flat, almost disaffected, as were the voices of several other callers.

"When we start burying people," Franklin said, "that's when you'll hear the rage."

All day long, wherever I went, people were gathered in little knots, talking in hushed tones about the burning buildings they'd seen on TV the day before, asking each other how this could have happened to the greatest country on Earth.

On the way home, I saw what is fast becoming the mournful symbol of this crisis: a young man on the side of the road, waving an American flag.

When I got home, I turned on the TV again. At that moment, CNN was running a crawl that said the White House may have been the intended target of the jetliner that slammed into the Pentagon.

Air Force One might have been a target, too, the crawl said.

It hadn't been just another day, after all.

PHOTO GALLERIES