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.
IN PAIN 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
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
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.