In the fall of 2001, I was a monthly columnist for a neighborhood paper. I wrote about the simple joys and mild challenges of suburban life. "Suburban Scrawl" was deliberately naive, deliberately lite, in every sense that misspelling is meant.
My October 2001 column was different. It was about as thoughtful as I could be three days after the event, which was my deadline for the next month. I'm proud of what I wrote, and I hope it helped somebody back then. I used to brag that my column was read by three people, so if one of them got something out of this, so much the better.
Today, I remember by reprinting that column. Thanks to all my readers and to God for the privilege of life in these United States of America.
It is now about three weeks since it happened. Three weeks ago, mellow sunshine bathed the streets of Woodcroft. A cool, dry breeze brought a message from fall: Be there soon—bringing State Fair with me. Everything was still green, deep green, despite the few fallen leaves clattering on asphalt. It was not a day for history to be made. It was a day for lying in a hammock and forgetting everything but the goodness of life.
What has happened in these last three weeks? Did we examine, in more detail than we ever wanted to know, the beginning, middle, end, and aftermath of the attack? How many people lost their lives? And how many people got out?
What ran through your head the first, second and third times you heard a jetliner overhead, or when you saw your first vapor trail bisecting a clear sky?
How many good stories have you heard? How many miracles came about? I hope a lot. You'll need to tell me, if you care to. I don't know, because for me, here in the middle of September, they haven't happened yet.
I hope you'll step into a time machine, come back in time three weeks, and tell me reassuring stories about how, even though we did go through the worst enemy attack on our soil ever, good things have happened, and we are a stronger nation for it.
I hope you'll tell me that our nation dug deep into its spiritual reserves, and mourned with great fervor for the victims of this attack; that we wept as much as we wanted, that we didn't hide anything, and that we reaffirmed our national commitment to hope, the future, and peace.
I hope you'll tell me that we haven't scapegoated human beings of any religion, nationality, or ethnicity living in our nation, but have recognized that when evil is done, all evil wants us to do is to do evil back.
This year I am sponsoring a group at my school which wants to learn Arabic. On the day after the attack I told them that I was one hundred percent behind them and any group that wanted to learn someone else's language. Because when you learn how others communicate, you also learn how they see the world, and what is important to them. And if you know these things, it will be easier to live in peace with them.
We cannot always prevent an evil person from carrying out an evil act. But we must never stop trying to reach out to people in other places, whether they are in Bolivia, Bahrain, or across the back fence.
There is less chaos when human beings reach out to each other. You won't have to come back in time to tell me that.