This morning, my mother rushed into the room, releasing a deluge of rolling words about bombs and buildings and planes. I leapt from the floor, rushed to the television, and turned to CNN just in time to see the second plane slide softly into the South Tower of the World Trade Center and surround the building in a ring of fire.
Horrified, I continued to watch, finally seeing the familiar, once solid Pentagon engulfed in flame and smoke. \’e2\’80\’9cThis can\’e2\’80\’99t be real. It cannot be.\’e2\’80\’9d I picked up the phone and dialed the Democratic National Committee. \’e2\’80\’9cWhat can I do? Do you need me to come in?\’e2\’80\’9d My boss, sobbing and out of breath said no, that she was leaving the building along with my co-workers. They were being evacuated. Within hours, the City of Chicago was a ghost town.
When the shock started to leave me, the human reality sank in. \’e2\’80\’9cArc, Lum, and Mys live and work in the D.C. area. Are they all right? My friends Paul and Michael, who I knew in college, work in downtown New York. My God. Where are they? I can\’e2\’80\’99t get through. All the telephone circuits are jammed.\’e2\’80\’9d
Paul soon signed online, telling me he had left work after the planes crashed. He watched as the towers collapsed a scant few blocks away from him. Ash coated his clothing, face, and hair. He was crying, shaking, vomiting. He hadn\’e2\’80\’99t heard from friends who worked in the area. He didn\’e2\’80\’99t know where they were. He didn\’e2\’80\’99t know if they were ok. One by one, the friends called, bringing more and more relief to the both of us. Perhaps we were lucky. Perhaps we wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t have to deal with what tens of thousands of others did.
Then, Michael called. I cannot describe the tone of his voice. I cannot describe the helplessness, the hollowness, or the pure heart break as he tried to explain to me that three of his friends worked in the World Trade Center. It had been ten hours since the collapse. No one has seen nor heard from these people. Not their friends, spouses, or families. They seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. We fear they have. It seems likely they have.
I knew two of those people, John and Michelle. I did not know them well, but I spent time with them at gatherings of friends. I see their faces and cannot fathom that they might be gone. It is inconceivable to me. I\’e2\’80\’99ve deliberately blanked out any thoughts of what their final moments might have been like. Pure terror is hardly adequate.
There is evil in the world, and we have seen it today. Tonight, I feel the earth must be very quiet, trembling slightly. Not from the terror, hate, and evil of the men who have done this, but from the anticipation of an America awakened and united as we have not been in a long while.
There will be much terror in the world in the coming weeks. But, it will not be ours. It will be in the hearts of the innocent and deserving alike who will die when America finally stands up and says \’e2\’80\’9cNo longer,\’e2\’80\’9d to the states who perpetuate the new evil of the 21st Century.
I am not a religious man, but I will pray for them. I will pray for those who find themselves staring into the barrel of the American gun when we pull the trigger. They do not deserve it. We did not deserve it.
John and Michelle did not deserve it.
However, we will not be responsible for it. The responsibility rests solely with those who woke up this morning and decided to dash out the light of so many American lives.
God have mercy on them.
For we will not.