Search billions of records on

From the newsroom of the Miami Herald, Miami, Florida,
Wednesday, September 12, 2001

We'll Go Forward From This Moment

by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

It's my job to have something to say.

They pay me 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, social, 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 measured 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 their 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,
probably, 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, terrible 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 the 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, the steel in us is not always readily apparent. 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 cherish.

So I ask again: What was it you hoped to teach us? It occurs to me
that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred.
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 capable of. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald