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2001-09-14 - 2:35 p.m.

Thought maybe some of you would like to read this...

We'll go forward from this moment

By Leonard Pitts Jr. (The Miami Herald)

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


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


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



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.



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