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11TH ACVVC Tribute

Coward's Attack
  By Leonard Pitts Jr. Syndicated columnist

  They pay me to tease shades of meaning from social and
  cultural issues, 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,
  cultural, 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 measu! red 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 its 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,
  indeed, 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, terr! ible 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 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, there is steel beneath this velvet. 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

  Still, I keep wondering what it was you hoped to teach
  us. It occurs to me
  that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your

  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 about. You
  don't know what you just started.

  But you're about to learn.