Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a day that shook America. Terrorist attacks brought our nation to a standstill and took an unthinkable human toll. Thousands are dead and/or still missing and the numbers are still increasing. The Pentagon in Washington, DC is disabled and the lower section of Manhattan where the Twin Towers once proudly stood lays in ruin and rubble on top of thousands of workers and rescuers.
Although we have been bloodied by terrorism in the past, nothing to date has ever so boldly disarmed a nation and plunged a country into such fear and powerlessness. This mindless attack on innocent human life may have shook the foundation of our biggest buildings, but it did not shake or crack the American Spirit.
On the contrary, this terrible human tragedy only further empowered we Americans to stand in solidarity with each other and not let terrorism win.
The outpouring of support, compassion and material generosity is beyond words. Even though we are a severely wounded nation, our spirit is triumphing.
Thousands of volunteers from around the country have convened on New York City in the downtown financial district. They have been working around the clock, wading through tons of rubble, searching for survivors and respectfully removing the remains of the deceased.
The Mayor and the Governor of New York have vowed that they will rebuild the city. There are plans already afoot to re-design and rebuild the area destroyed by this terrible catastrophe.
In recent days, from the President on down, we have been urged to go back to work and our regular routines. That is easier said than done. Many of us have spent the last week going to the wakes and funerals of those killed in the Twin Tower disaster. This cycle of pain and grief will probably continue for weeks and even months, since those missing number over 5000. Every day our local daily newspapers carry at least a dozen obituaries of those who were senselessly killed on that infamous Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Since Black Tuesday, people all over America have been pulling together and supporting each other in ways that have not been seen since World War II. People's generosity of heart has been mind-boggling. Churches, Temples and Mosques have been filled to capacity with people praying for the dead, the missing and the rescue effort.
On the North Shore, local religious communities have been gathering in record numbers. On the night of this tragedy, people came to a memorial Mass at St. Louis de Montfort by word of mouth. Over seven hundred filled that Sound Beach church.
On Davis Park, Fire Island, the Catholic Church has one service on Saturdays during September and October. Normally between fifty and sixty people gather. On the Saturday after the disaster, a sign was placed on the Main Walk indicating that the 5 o'clock Mass would be offered for the victims, those missing and those involved in the rescue and recovery effort. People from every walk of life were encouraged to participate. Almost three hundred people packed that little beach church for that Mass. The Mass ended with everyone walking in candlelight procession to the ocean, where hymns and prayers were offered. People named the special loved ones they wanted remembered and placed their lighted candles around a large piece of driftwood. After that was completed, they left the beach in silence.
The next morning some people were walking the beach at sunrise and called the mainland to say that those candles were still burning even though the night had been windy.
There have been countless stories of miracles in the midst of all this human tragedy. This only further underscores the power and the depth of the American human spirit.
However, there is a growing list of dangerous concerns emerging. As the numbness wears off and we must face the intensity of loss, grief and human suffering, our camaraderie runs the risk of moving into bitterness, anger, resentment and rage. Those negative emotions run the risk of exploding into violence and discrimination.
In recent days, as the Nation is trying to go back to its normal routine, our political leadership has been talking the rhetoric of war. The President has been trying to prepare the Nation for what he calls a long battle "in the name of democracy and freedom."
Clearly, those who have inflicted this terrible devastation upon us and are responsible for this indescribable loss of innocent human life need to be held accountable and be brought to justice. However, our effort to bring the leadership of these terrorist groups to justice should not justify the shedding of innocent blood and loss of human life on foreign soil. We are stooping to the same level as those who have inflicted evil on us. Senseless violence begets more senseless violence, and the hate continues to spread like wildfire.
We need to end terrorism immediately. A collaborative global effort in this regard would probably be the most comprehensive and effective strategy to reach that end. We must also look at what we have done to contribute to world terrorism. The School of the Americas has trained men and women who have acted as terrorists in Central America. A recent Congressional report verifies that some American missionaries were executed at their hands.
As a nation, we are at a critical crossroads. We need to build our strength and our political power to work for peace and justice. In these difficult days of healing and recovery, we need to support those who are grieving and attempting to rebuild their lives. We must loudly protect our Arab American brothers and sisters from heartless discrimination and prejudice.
The X generation does not know the casualties of war firsthand. We must exercise prudence and restraint. Patriotism cannot be confused with recklessness and abuse. Our Armed Forces need our respect and support. They don't need a bunch of misguided young adults who just want to gun down terrorists and blow up those who have harbored them. Our Armed Forces need men and women who are grounded in the principles of our nation.
When all is said and done and the sun sets on this horrible American tragedy, all the warring in the world is not going to bring back one murdered American or take away one minute of pain, grief or suffering from those who have lost a loved one. War only intensifies the pain and increases the nightmares. The sooner we can justly arrest the terrorism and find our way to peace, the stronger our recovery, healing and freedom will be.