SPIRIT OF AMERICA:
BOWED, BUT UNBROKEN
September 14, 2001
BY RICHARD ROEPER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
I am the spirit of America. I am the Stars and Stripes
waving proudly from homes, schools, football fields,
office buildings and government centers.
I am New York City Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci,
Jr., First Deputy Fire Commissioner William Feehan, Capt.
Raymond Downey and FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge.
I am the hundreds of firefighters, policemen and Port
Authority officers who are missing and will not be found.
I am the men and women who knew they were going to die
and thus jumped from the towers, choosing to have some
measure of control over the last breaths they would take.
I am the thousands of volunteers who have rolled up their
sleeves and donned surgical masks to aid the workers
digging through the incomprehensible rubble and debris in
I am Michael Benfante, 22, and John Cerqueria, 36, who
carried a disabled woman down 68 floors of a World Trade
Center stairwell and placed the woman in an emergency
I am the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 who
fought with their hijackers and brought the plane down
outside Pittsburgh, 250 miles from its intended target in
I am the dozens of passengers aboard the other hijacked
planes who called loved ones to say goodbye, or tried to
I am the pilots and flight attendants on those planes.
I am President George W. Bush, doing and saying the right
things in the face of an unprecedented national tragedy.
I am former President Bill Clinton and former Vice
President Al Gore,
voicing unconditional support for President Bush.
I am the members of Congress, standing on the steps of
the Capitol and breaking into a rendition of "God
I am the loved ones who are holding up photos on TV,
pasting leaflets on the side of TV news vans, and keeping
vigil in the faint hopes that their mother, their father,
their child, will be found.
I am the crowds lining the streets of lower Manhattan,
cheering the rescue workers and truck drivers and
technicians heading to the disaster site.
I am the nurses and doctors who have come to New York to
I am the millions of Americans who have reached out to
friends with e-mails and phone calls saying, "I hope
you're all right I hope you didn't lose anyone close to
you, and if I haven't said it lately, I love you."
I am New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, wearing a cap and
emblazoned with logos of the New York City Fire
Department, standing strong and calm and forceful while
addressing the city.
I am the thousands upon thousands of Americans in Los
Angeles and Denver and Phoenix and Detroit and
Philadelphia who have lined up to donate blood.
I am the electric ribbon of red, white and blue rimming
the top of the John Hancock Center on a Wednesday night
I am the New Yorkers who have laid flowers and
hand-scribbled words of mourning at the site of the
I am the construction workers who fashioned stretchers
from materials at their nearby work sites, and then
joined the firefighters and the police in rescue efforts.
I am the Chicago-area firefighters who rode in a caravan
of RVs and SUVs to New York to offer assistance to their
I am the people gathered in Riverfront Park in Spokane,
I am the business professionals who have donated coffee,
food, hotel rooms, phones and other services.
I am the journalists covered in soot and risking their
own safety so they can tell the world what has happened.
I am the camera operators who stood strong and took video
and still photographs, even as people around them ran for
I am General Electric, donating $10 million to the
families of emergency workers who have lost their lives.
I am the investigators who are working swiftly and with
precision to identify the terrorists and their
I am the Pentagon workers who aren't coming home.
I am Ronnie Clifford, who was trying to save a woman's
life outside the first tower, even as his own sister was
aboard the United Airlines plane that was about to hit
the second tower.
I am the rescue personnel who toil to the point of
exhaustion, take a break--and then get back to the most
grisly and heartbreaking work imaginable.
I am the millions of Americans who will mourn, weep,
pray--and never forget.
I am the spirit of America, and I am alive and strong,
and you can never kill me.