9-11 Memories

Eight years ago today I was in the middle of the busiest year of my life. I was working full time, doing 10-15 hours a week of counseling practicum, and taking 2 graduate classes. The morning of 9-11 I was doing my practicum at a substance abuse facility. I was standing outside having a smoke (I quit not too long after this) with a fellow graduate student. We were complaining about how tired we were and laughing about a story one of her clients had told her. Another counselor came outside, saw us laughing, and said "you guys haven't heard yet, have you?"

We got pieces of the story from her and I then had to go into a room full of addicts that I was co-leading in a group and tell them what I knew. So there are around 20 women out there whose memory of where they were when they heard involves being in rehab and hearing me stumble around for words.

Sometime that week I read the following article and it expressed exactly what I was feeling and thinking during that time about the events that changed all of our lives. I still get goosebumps when I read it because it brings me back to that stressful moment and all the craziness that went with those first few weeks.

An Open Letter to the Terrorists
by Leonard Pitts, Jr

Published Wednesday, September 12, 2001
in 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 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.


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 determined.


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.

The Miami Herald


Peebs And Roo said...

I remember reading that too. Thanks for sharing this as it will always help us to remember how strong we really are!


Roschelle@Inconsequential Logic said...

Thank you so much for sharing that remarkable letter. The memories are still have raw and painful as they were 8 years ago

Bonhomie Jewelry said...

I didn't have the opportunity to read that article when it was first published. Thanks, Paige, for sharing it now.

Stacie said...

I didn't read this before today. I got chills reading it. Some songs to this day even give me the chills. This is a part of history I will never forget.

Anonymous said...

To the terrorist A.K.A. the US government is more precise.

Vixen said...

That is amazing. I am so glad you shared it. I had to take my laptop over and read it to my husband.

Kristin at My Art and the Mom in Me said...

I have never read that.. but what an amazing piece. Thanks for posting it.


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