September 13, 2001
THE MIAMI HERALD
AFTER THE ATTACK; Commentary
JUST FOR BEING AMERICANS .
By DAVE BARRY, Herald Columnist
No humor column today. I don't want to write it, and you don't
want to read it. No words of wisdom, either. I wish I were
wise enough to say something that would help make sense of
this horror, something that would help ease the unimaginable
pain of the victims' loved ones, but I'm not that wise. I'm
barely capable of thinking. Like many others, I've spent the
hours since Tuesday morning staring at the television screen,
sometimes crying, sometimes furious, but mostly just stunned.
I can't get out of my mind is the fact that they used our
own planes. I grew up in the Cold War, when we always pictured
the threat as coming in the form of missiles - sleek, efficient
death machines, unmanned, hurtling over the North Pole from
far away. But what came, instead, were our own commercial
airliners, big friendly flying buses coming from Newark and
Boston with innocent people on board. Red, white and blue
planes, with "United" and "American" written
on the side. The planes you've flown in and I've flown in.
That's what they used to attack us. They were able to do it
in part because our airport security is pathetic. But mainly
they were able to do it because we are an open and trusting
society that simply is not set up to cope with evil men, right
here among us, who want to kill as many Americans as they
what's so hard to comprehend: They want us to die just for
being Americans. They don't care which Americans die: military
Americans, civilian Americans, young Americans, old Americans.
Baby Americans. They don't care. To them, we're all mortal
enemies. The truth is that most Americans, until Tuesday,
were only dimly aware of their existence, and posed no threat
to them. But that doesn't matter to them; all that matters
is that we're Americans. And so they used our own planes to
their supporters celebrated in the streets.
naive about my country. My country is definitely not always
right; my country has at times been terribly wrong. But I
know this about Americans: We don't set out to kill innocent
people. We don't cheer when innocent people die.
who did this to us are monsters; the people who cheered them
have hate-sickened minds. One reason they can cheer is that
they know we would never do to them what their heroes did
to us, even though we could, a thousand times worse. They
know that when we hunt down the monsters, we will try hard
not to harm the innocent. Those are the handcuffs we willingly
wear, because for all our flaws, we are a decent people.
we are a traumatized people. The TV commentators keep saying
that the attacks have awakened a "sleeping giant."
And I guess we do look like a giant, to the rest of the world.
But when I look around, I don't see a giant: I see millions
of individuals - the resilient and caring citizens of New
York and Washington; the incredibly brave firefighters, police
officers and rescue workers risking their lives in the dust
and flames; the politicians standing on the steps of the Capitol
and singing an off-key rendition of God Bless America
that, corny as it was, had me weeping; the reporters and photographers
who have not slept, and will not sleep, as long as there is
news to report; the people in my community, and communities
across America, lining up to give blood, wishing they could
don't see a giant. What I see is Americans. We may have the
power of a giant, but we also have the heart of a good and
generous people, and we will get through this. We will grieve
for our dead, and tend to our wounded, and repair the damage,
and tighten our security, and put our planes back in the air.
Eventually most of us, the ones lucky enough not to have lost
somebody, will resume our lives. Some day, our country will
track down the rest of the monsters behind this, and make
them pay, and I suppose that will make most of us feel a little
better. But revenge and hatred won't be why we'll go on. We'll
go on because we know this is a good country, a country worth
who would destroy it only make us see more clearly how precious
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