Within the brain of almost every living American there are dates that are indelibly etched there, numbers that are as real to us as figures written into a granite stone. We carry these dates with us in our heads until we at last rest under the stones bearing our own final numbers: December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor). November 22, 1963 (Pres. Kennedy assassination). . . . And now, September 11, 2001.
Your mother asked me to write something about this last date, so that when you get older we can talk about how it felt back then, what it was like to live through that terrible day and the long days and nights that followed. So that she and I might have something to look back to, when you begin to ask the questions that will come.
To the hard question that you will ask: "Why Daddy?" I have no answer. I don't think that in my lifetime anyone will be able to answer that one. Your lives may come and go, too, before someone can at last explain. How do you begin to apply logic, or common sense, to such utter madness? Your father does not know.
As I write you just three days after this horrific disaster, I have many unanswered questions of my own. And at this early date there is so much that remains unknown. But in trying to look ahead and prepare for the day that will come, the day that you sit on my knee and say: "Today we talked about the World Trade Center in school. What do you remember, Daddy?" I know that I will tell you this: I was afraid.
"Daddy afraid?" You ask. Yes, children, and the fear that I feel today grows upon me like a small irritation in the eye. At first it is just an annoyance. But the more you work at it, the harder you rub, the more uncomfortable it becomes until at last you are overwhelmed by the pain.
Kids, I would be lying to you if I said that it is not my own life that I fear for. I'm only forty-two years old, and although that may sound ancient to you, it's a terribly young age to die. But even if I was to die today, I would have lived a fairly full life. My fear, my beloved children, my gifts from God, is that we may now be living in an age where you may not be given the chance to reach this age. This is the very heart of my fear.
I fear that your mother and I have brought the three of you into a world where you can no longer come and go as you please, where safety and well-being are no longer things that can be taken for granted. I fear that I will spend each and every day for the rest of my life wondering if this is the day, the day that one of you fails to return home alive.
The world changed in a moment September 11, 2001. It took just eighteen minutes to go from praying that it was an accident to knowing that evil had taken on a new face and that all of the old rules had changed. Everything became suddenly darker when those billowing black clouds of smoke drifted across the sky of New York, of Washington, and of Pennsylvania. The shadows that they cast fell upon the hearts of every American who has one. And how quickly we learned, my children, to tell the difference between Americans with hearts and those without.
Even as the tapping of survivors could still be heard coming from under the rubble of the wreckage, there were people whose only thoughts were of how to add to the mayhem. They called in false bomb threats, to the airports, to bridges, to the sites of devastation in New York and at the Pentagon, costing rescue workers to lose valuable time, perhaps even costing life itself. God Himself will deal with these people; I will say no more of them.
Let me instead tell you of the heroes. The people of true heart. Thousands upon thousands of them. Firemen, police and port authority personnel. Civilians. People with no other vested interest than that of caring for their fellow man. Men and women who, despite the overwhelming danger, rushed forward, towards harm's path, trying to help the wounded, and many of whom ultimately gave their lives. People from across the country who, wanting to do something, anything, stood in line for hours waiting to donate blood. Rescue workers who stayed awake and at the sites for not just hour after hour, but for days.
From this amazing display of resilience, children, I think that I can find something to help me move forward too. All is not lost. Kids, did you know that your father once worked in a steel mill? It is there that I learned the word tempered, and I would like to tell you a little something about it. Steel is not very strong children. Not until you expose it to extreme heat, that is. Then once the steel is cooled by placing it in water, it becomes amazingly strong. Tempered.
My very soul has been tempered. Heated to the extreme by the massive fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center. Then cooled to ice like temperatures by the thought that someone dare bring this terror to our homeland. I am further strengthened by the acts of those gallant firemen whose unselfish bravery left so many of them lying buried beneath tons of concrete, dead or dying. How can I let fear drive my actions now when so many others have acted so fearlessly?
With these actions to guide me, this is how I will brave our dangerous new world. I will not cower before thugs. I will not bend to the will of terrorist. I will be ever mindful of the new dangers we face, but I will not let the mindless action of madmen determine my fate. I will stride ever forward determined to do the very best for you that I am able. I will protect you from harm where I can, and pray to God to protect you where I can't. And I will place all of my faith in Him to help us along our way.
May God watch over you, my children. May He bless our family, our friends, and our country.
I love you.
Notes: I and my wife, Lois, will never forget watching the live TV feed in the early hours of morning's darkness in our home in Los Angeles as the first passenger plane crashed into the first Trade Center Tower. We thought how horrible an accident! When the second plane crashed into the other Trade Center Tower, we knew they were no accidents. We knew that all our lives had been changed by acts that will..."live in infamy." I hope the reader will permit me the right to publish the following article that reflects most Americans' belief in a higher authority than the small minds that created those horrible acts. As my Father used to say, "I believe something created this universe." and "It takes more energy to create than to destroy." End of Notes: