Published Wednesday, September 12, 2001 in the Miami Herald
(sent by Kim)
We'll go forward from this moment
It's my job to have something to say.
They pay me to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.
You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.
What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn?
Whatever it was, please know that you failed.
Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.
Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.
Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.
Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, social, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae -- a singer's revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse. We're wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods, and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though -- peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are, the overwhelming majority of us, people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.
Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us weak.
You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.
Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning and we are in shock. We're still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel.
Both in terms of the awful scope of their ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and, probably, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.
But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall. This is the lesson Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length, in the pursuit of justice.
I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people, as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.
In the days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms.
We'll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.
THE STEEL IN US
You see, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well.
On this day, the family's bickering is put on hold.
As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.
So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred. If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange:
You don't know my people. You don't know what we're capable of. You don't know what you just started.
But you're about to learn.
An open letter to a terrorist:
Well, you hit the World Trade Center, but you missed America. You hit the Pentagon, but you missed America. You used helpless American bodies,to take out other American bodies, but like a poor marksman, you STILL missed America. Why? Because of something you guys will never understand. America isn't about a building or two, not about financial centers, not about military centers, America isn't about a place, America isn't even about a bunch of bodies. America is about an IDEA. An idea, that you can go someplace where you can earn as much as you can, figure out how to live for the most part, like you envisioned living, and pursue Happiness. (No guarantees that you'll reach it, but you can sure try!)
Go ahead and whine your terrorist whine, and chant your terrorist litany: "If you cannot see my point, then feel my pain." This concept is alien to Americans. We live in a country where we don't have to see your point. But you're free to have one. We don't have to listen to your speech. But you're free to say one. Don't know where you got the strange idea that everyone has to agree with you.
There's a spirit that tends to take over people who come to this country, looking for opportunity, looking for liberty, looking for freedom. Even if they misuse it.
You guys seem to be incapable of understanding that we don't live in America, America lives in US! American Spirit is what it's called. And killing a few thousand of us, or a few million of us, won't change it. Most of the time, it's a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of Spirit. Until we're crossed in a cowardly manner, then it becomes an entirely different kind of Spirit.
Wait until you see what we do with that Spirit, this time. Sleep tight, if you can. We're coming.
(I don't know who the author is.........Paul_)