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FW: We'll go forward from this moment

  • From: Stafford, Todd
  • Date: Fri Sep 14 12:21:15 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> 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.
> 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.