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Tuesday, September 11, 2001

I hope you weren't alone today. It's even more maddening to know that disastrous events are taking place if you don't have anyone to share the experience with. It takes some of the pain away, dilutes the horror just a bit, if you can turn to someone and tell them how you feel. Sometimes it helps if you can just stare at each other in silent shock.

When I got up this morning, both towers of the World Trade Center, although smoldering, were still standing. Before I had poured my first glass of orange juice, the twin towers were no more, along with hundreds, maybe thousands of people — people of all ages, races, beliefs, indiscriminately targeted as victims in a war they didn't know was being waged.

The terrorists will get some measure of victory out of this. Heightened security will encroach on some of the freedom that gives this nation its identity. Life will change in some way for almost everyone. In the short term, malls, theme parks, museums, theaters and baseball stadiums are closed. The United States is a no-fly zone, and in some areas buses and trains have suspended their schedules.

In the long run, we will never be as sure of our own safety and security, and that will take a toll. We'll look over our shoulders more, and we'll accept the more intense scrutiny that will lead to some loss of privacy and mobility. Maybe our current government, already paranoid about its place in the world and leaning precariously toward isolationism, will close the borders and declare us a closed campus.

The paralysis of transportation in this country is certainly one of the predictable outcomes that terrorists would have expected. The finger-pointing is another. Their real victory will be if we, the United States of America, the victims of this act of terrorism, retaliate without due consideration of the consequences. If we attack the wrong target. If we strike out in anger and kill more civilians, somewhere on the other side of the world, just because we can, or just because we think we have to. Then we're back to being the world's bullies again. If that happens, shame on whoever is responsible. Shame on us.

Think of some of the people who are affected by what happened today:

  • No one knows how many were killed in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania, but all of them have family, friends or loved ones, somewhere. They will never make new friends, though, or have more children, or meet a new lover.

  • Tens of thousands of people worked in the three buildings that collapsed today in New York, and thousands more in the blocks around that are now a war zone. If those people still have jobs, where will they go?

  • How many sleepless nights, or worse psychological trauma, will this day impart to those who barely escaped, and those who witnessed unimaginable horrors?

  • Business itself is stalled today, and for at least the immediate future. Travelers are stranded. Military personnel around the world are now back in heightened readiness, without really knowing what they have to be ready for.

  • The whole world is affected, particularly the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, who need no further wedges driven between them.

  • It's entirely possible, even probable, that Americans of Arab descent, or in fact anyone whose skin or eyes or mode of dress makes them look Middle Eastern, will be victims of a new wave of racial bigotry.

dark day

Looking east.

Eventually, life in the United States will get back to normal, but "normal" will mean something different than it ever has before.

I watch the hawks circling overhead and listen to the doves cooing in the trees. They don't understand that humans are unable to live on this planet without desecrating it and killing each other. We've been reminded today that this is true, but we can't explain it any better than the hawks and doves.

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