When the last terror bombing in Sri Lanka's capital killed more than 40 people, counselors offered to meet with the wounded, widowed or simply frightened.

No one was interested.Just two years ago, after one of the first deadly rebel bombings in Colombo, dozens of people had showed up for group therapy sessions organized by the National Council on Mental Health.

People have grown used to living with violence, fear and distrust, said the council's director, Dr. Narme F. Wickremesinghe.

After 15 years of ethnic fighting, mainly in the north of this island nation off Indian's southern tip, attitudes and emotions are so hardened that many people find it difficult to see ahead to a time without war.

People open to reconciliation can be hard to find in Colombo, where ethnic animosity has strengthened and spread. The bitterness shows up in the national newspapers that influence society and shape debate, and politicians rise in parliament to fan hatred between the dominant Sinhalese and minority Tamils.

"What we can look forward to, I don't know," said Wickremesinghe, who is Sinhalese. "The amount of trust I have in my Tamil friends, I know the next generation won't have. How are you going to overcome it? I have no idea. It's gone on too long."

Even though the front is far to the north, what is universally known simply as "this situation" is part of the rhythm of Colombo's daily life. Doctors and nurses at the main hospital hold bomb response drills. The view from the city's luxurious beach-front hotels sweeps across a fleet of gunboats at the spot where a team of guerrilla divers with bombs strapped to their chests once tried to sneak ashore.

It's an early rising town, even on Sundays, when matrons in white saris troop to their weekly Buddhist religious classes. On weekdays, seamstresses start their shifts at clothing factories before the tropical heat reaches its stickiest.

And office workers coping with rush hour can never be sure which roads on their route will be closed for a security check.

Every time Sanjitha Satyamurthy, a 21-year-old Tamil business student, approaches one of the police checkpoints that dot downtown, she braces herself.

Her Sinhalese friends are waved on after producing national identity cards. But once officers see her Tamil name, she's usually asked for proof she has a reason to be in Colombo, in the form of an affidavit from her local police station.

"OK, fine, I carry my police report everywhere. Asked to produce it, I produce it," she said, her words clipped and bare of emotion. She has grown used to the constant suspicion, she said.

Extremists on both sides say Tamils and Sinhalese cannot live together on this tropical Indian Ocean island of 18 million people.