When Toris Proctor peeked inside Room 343 of the Valencia Motel, he hadn't a clue his neighbors were among those suspected of plotting the worst act of terrorism ever to befall America.

But the five crisply dressed, clean-shaven young men, who never went anywhere without their luggage in hand, seemed out of place in the dingy one-bedroom unit next door. Something about them worried Proctor, so he made sure his 4-year-old nephew steered clear.

"We thought it was suspicious that they had the same routine every day," Proctor said last week. "I didn't ever think it was anything like this."

In suburban neighborhoods from San Diego to Phoenix and oceanfront apartments from Delray Beach to Hollywood, Fla., the 19 hijackers blended into the multicultural tapestry that is America. Sometimes they did so seamlessly, sometimes not.

The FBI believes some of the identities hijackers used were false, further complicating the puzzle of men who listed multiple addresses where they never lived, and who may have changed the spellings of their names as often as they moved.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, it is the audacity of the hijackers who lived, studied and traveled so publicly in America that leaves some of their former neighbors feeling shaken and betrayed.

Out of the way

In Laurel, the men drew attention, but their peculiarity seemed less than sinister.

At the Valencia Motel, Room 343 sits at the back of the complex on Washington Boulevard in the Maryland suburb. It overlooks an access road, the rear of a handful of commercial lots and the Laurel horse racing track in the distance.

"This is an out-of-the-way place. It's low budget or whatever," said Proctor, an unemployed 22-year-old who spends his days watching the comings and goings of the motel complex from Room 342. In their dress and daily routine, the five men appeared to be middle-class people with daily commitments. Here, that was rare.

As his suspicions grew, Proctor said he began to pay more attention. He'd peek inside the door whenever the men opened it. Inside, he saw bedding spread out on the living room floor, as if they were all sleeping in the front room.

Beyond the small living room, the men shared a cramped eating area, a galley kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom. The dirty carpet emitted a strong, musty smell. The walls were covered with peeling, faded floral wallpaper.

Each morning at 10, the five stepped out of their room and walked toward a blue Toyota Corolla parked out front.

Three men climbed inside the car and waited. Two others walked across the bustling Washington Boulevard to a restaurant called Pizza Time, where they spent a few minutes each morning before the restaurant was open. The men returned to the group, and they drove away for the day.

As they passed through the region, whether at a nearby health club, an adult video store or a flying school, they identified themselves as Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour.

To the people at the Valencia or Gold's Gym or elsewhere, the notion remains unfathomable that the men would drive to Dulles International Airport on Sept. 11 and board American Airlines Flight 77 bound for Los Angeles, hijack the plane and dive into the Pentagon.

Hours after the terrorist attack in New York and the Washington area, the FBI dispatched agents to neighborhoods in South Florida cities including Opa-locka and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

It was inside the stucco mom-and-pop motel rooms where most of the 19 hijacking suspects once lived and it was inside nearby flight schools where they learned to pilot jets.

Where getting lost is easy