Like most of you, I spent a majority of the last three days glued to my television set watching the horrors unfold in New York City and Washington D.C. either live or countless times on videotape. Even as I write this column in the wee small hours of the morning, the cold glow of CNN is visible over my left shoulder, muted but not turned off.
Let’s face it, there’s no escaping this deplorable act. We can’t hide from it. Even after watching close to 12 hours of news coverage from Tuesday on into Wednesday, I found it difficult to turn my television off. Not for fear that I’d miss the latest amateur footage of those jetliners making their tragic approach toward the twin towers of the World Trade Center, but for fear that if I did turn my television off, the world would suddenly cease to exist.
I’m not alone. As the events of this past week unfolded, many of us turned toward mass media to assuage our bereavement as citizens of this nation. From students huddled around television sets in the cafeteria to commuters listening to radio reports on their drive home to those who used the Internet as a key source of information, we all searched for answers and found both hurt and assurance.
Together as a nation we cried and mourned the loss of so many that were punished simply for being citizens of a great country. We cried for the families of those victims who are now forced to deal with a loss many of us couldn’t possibly begin to fathom in this life or the next. We lost many souls, many Americans. We saw our grip on reality slowly fade away with every passing moment. Our lives changed forever.
But as a nation, we also witnessed the indomitable power of the human spirit. Through all the hurt and despair, citizens of he world emerged from the billowing smoke of tragedy with unity and selflessness. Heroism hung in the air.
Stories about hundreds of New York City firefighters and police officers, who knowingly sacrificed their lives to rescue people trapped in the crumbling twin towers, have given humanity hope in its darkest hour. There are also the brave passengers onboard United Airlines Flight 93 – possibly on a deadly rendezvous with the White House or Air Force One – who reportedly crashed in a field outside of Pittsburgh. In their valor, they gave up their own lives to spare countless others.
There are also the countless paramedics, rescue workers, volunteers, medical staffs and passerby who, without regard for their own lives, offered their services to a wounded country. Our brethren from nations around the world also joined together in an unprecedented symbol of solidarity, proving that we are capable of putting our petty squabbles and biases aside for the greater good.
As this tragedy continues to touch our lives, the events that followed the disheartening attack assured us that our world will never cease to exist. That our “pillars of democracy” would not crumble under the weight of cowardice and hatred. Our hearts are stronger than the forces that seek to decimate them, and our citizens have already shown that will emerge victorious.
Many of us have taken solace in our nation’s strength and the resolve of its citizens. Others have turned toward God and religion. Like countless others, I did both these last few days. After watching rescue crews feverishly sift through the wreckage for trapped survivors, I’ve found myself praying and turning toward God for answers. And what I’ve found is an overwhelming feeling of compassion toward those in this world who seek life and liberty.
As tempting as it may be and as much as we’d like to punish those responsible for this act of lunacy, this is not a time for hatred. This is not a time to divide our world based on creed, color, ethnicity or religion. We have already proven that we can overcome these obstacles, as witnessed by the actions in New York and Washington. Why wallow in hatred when we can revel in unity? The answer to that question is not as simple on one might hope, but it’s there.
We have been joined together under the worst possible conditions. Nothing can change that now. We need to push forward to continue our way of life. And in doing so, the world will shout the message to the mountaintops that those who seek chaos may mute the human spirit, but they will never turn it off.