On December 7, 1941 I was standing at the kitchen sink in our home in
Denver washing the lunch dishes. My husband was in the dark-room
developing some pictures. One year old John was ambling around on the
floor getting under my feet. Then out of the little radio came those
fateful words, "Japanese planes have bombed Pearl Harbor." My first
reaction was numbness and shock and disbelief.
On September 11, 2001 at 7:30 a m I was driving to my favorite coffee
shop to meet friends. Somebody on KPRN was talking about an airplane
crashing into one of the World Trade Towers. It was such an outrageous
idea that my still somewhat fuzzy brain thought it surely must be a
hoax. It wasn't, as I learned when I got home and turned on the TV.
The first reaction was numbness and shock and disbelief.
I can't help comparing the two awful moments. In 1941 that first day
was a voice out of a box. But in 2001 the unbelievable horror was right
in my living room and the those two beautiful towers were crumbling to
the ground like a pair of sand castles, carrying with them hundreds or
maybe thousands of innocent, unsuspecting people to horrible deaths.
Then a slice was neatly cut out of the Pentagon by another of our own
airliners, and the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania -- all in a
couple of hours none of us will ever forget.
Some forms of violence are so horrible that they suspend belief. We are
numb with sympathy for the dead and for their families and friends who
may never find them. And we are so very proud of bravery and dedication
of the rescuers.
On Pearl Harbor Day we knew the enemy. It was a nation. The big red
circles on their planes announced it loudly. Today we're not completely
sure of the Who's. But we know the What. The enemy is fanaticism,
We'll find the Who's and we will punish them. I have no idea how or
when, but we have the knowledge and the skill and we will do it.
But how can anyone hate us so much?
President Bush answered eloquently Tuesday night. "America was targeted
for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and
opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from
And we can take some measure of comfort in the fact that one of the
greatest symbols of freedom and democracy in our nation still stands.
Through the billowing smoke of destruction in lower Manhattan, the
Statue of Liberty lifts her torch to freedom. Long may she survive.
Meanwhile, as grief and shock turn into anger we have to guard against
ugliness in our own country. Leonard Pitts, in the Miami Herald wrote,
"Hatred on account of culture or religion is unworthy of us at any
time. But in the wake of Tuesday's events, it's tantamount to giving
aid and comfort to the enemy, a group of petty thugs who tried to bring
us down to their level."
In 1942 we made a dreadful mistake that we must not repeat. 120
thousand American citizens of Japanese descent were taken from their
homes and imprisoned in camps. They lost everything, including their
basic civil rights. Since that time, Presidents have apologized and
Congress has agreed to pay reparations, but it was one of the most
shameful racial episodes in American history.
Already American Muslims are aware of the possibility of another such
episode. We must keep that from happening.
As one Congressman said this morning, "We are one people, one nation,
I'll never forget standing on top of one of the World Trade Towers one
sunny day, and pretending that I could see clear to England. None of us
will ever forget what happened September 11, 2001 in New York and
Let's get the monsters, but let's remember who we are and the lessons we
have learned from the past.