© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001
The events and images of Sept. 11, 2001, are now seared into the hearts and minds of every American. Until the end of time, they will become a part of the national consciousness of this country and will be remembered as reverently and as passionately as we remember Pearl Harbor, the Lusitania and the Alamo. The names of the victims may be forgotten in the course of time, but their sacrifice and that of their families will not.
The enemies who did these things thought that America would cower in fear, retreat in paranoia, and be humbled by the fact that this happened on American soil. But they do not understand the American spirit, the American soul, or the American people. Yes, we have been hurt and we will grieve. We have been humbled, and we will reflect. But we have not been beaten and we will prevail.
What these craven cowards have done is to fuel the furnace that will forge a nation of individuals and individual interests into a sword that was tempered by the blood of innocent mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. They have achieved precisely the opposite of their goal: Rather than splitting us apart, blinding us and causing confusion, they have united us, given us a clarity of vision and imbued in us a resolve that has not been achieved since Dec. 7, 1941.
By their own hand, they have created not only the weapon of their own destruction, but the will and the desire to achieve it.
The character of every American has been on display. I am a Vietnam veteran and retired Army officer and was appalled by the tragedy that befell our country Tuesday. Since that time, the character of every American has been on display for the world to see and every American has shown the world what the American character truly is: It is strength in the face of tragedy, it is unity in the face of danger and it is resolve in the face of adversity. I cannot tell you how proud I am to be an American and how proud I am of my fellow Americans.
-- David Dubin, Redington Beach
I am really not quite sure how many of our citizens truly understand the complete dedication that our firefighters and law officers have toward their duties. It just takes a tragic event like the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. to really show what challenges these true-life heroes face every day of their lives, on and off duty.
My heart is heavy for the terrible loss of all the lives in this terrible event, but I thank God that these men and women are ever on guard to protect all of us.
-- Frederick J. Greene, Indian Rocks Beach
As a school-age girl, I listened to history lessons and stories from my grandmother or father about Pearl Harbor or other disasters. Until Tuesday, I never understood the horror and the reality.
-- Nancy McLane, Tarpon Springs
As a mother and grandmother, I say, "Hold your children close." To the younger generations, be on guard; pay closer attention to what is happening in the world because it will affect all of us.
We are sometimes a country divided over many issues. In light of the tragic events of Sept. 11, they are trivial. We must come together, hand to hand, heart to heart and -- after we lay our fellow victims to rest -- head to head. Whoever is responsible for this, directly or indirectly, must be punished in the most severe form, no matter world opinion.
I believe that our borders, especially to the north, should be closed temporarily. We must be ever vigilant, or our great nation will cease to be. I offer prayers for our suffering nation, and hope for a calm insight and the backbone to do what must be done.
God bless America.
-- Joan E. Clayton, Largo
As a hospice physician, I am accustomed to dealing with tragedy on a one-on-one basis. But the shear magnitude of this evil and the immensity of the consequent suffering overwhelms me to the point of numbness. And sadly, like a stone thrown into a placid pond, the suffering will ripple outward, grieving even more individuals in its wake.
But we must remember, things are not out of control, for a God greater than the evil and a God greater than the suffering still exists.
I pray that we would all ". . . strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations." -- Abraham Lincoln, 1865, Second Inaugural Address
-- James A. Avery, M.D., Clearwater
After years of weak and ineffective government response to terrorist attacks on the United States, both here and abroad, and allowing rogue nations to both sponsor and shelter those responsible for these attacks (including some of our erstwhile allies), it is now time for Congress to declare, and the president to conduct, war against any nation that allows actions like these to take place.
We are at a turning point that will surely define the future of our country for generations to come. Our very survival depends on the resolve we show the world. No amount of diplomacy, of unending fruitless talks with those nations responsible, will save us from the sure consequences of showing weakness. The constant price of freedom, here or anywhere, is the willingness to defend it; for if we don't, we become the sheep to be slaughtered by the wolves of the world.
Every generation has challenges. Each time a challenge is not met, it places additional burdens on those generations to follow. Our society has become bloated with opportunists who have no conscience, whose only motives are greed and self-indulgence. These people are always with us, but they only prosper when we allow it to happen: from the business owners who sell the latest and most advanced hardware to nations that vow to destroy us, to the apologists who constantly seek to make us feel guilty for being the most productive nation on earth, to the media that give exposure (and thus confer legitimacy) on those who would destroy our society.
Warnings have gone unheeded for many years. We have been blinded by our leaders and by our own pursuit of individual prosperity. "Peace at any price" has been the mantra of those who knowingly, or unknowingly, led us down the garden path.
History abounds with examples of destruction from within by those nations and peoples who lack both the will to protect themselves in the present and the vision to guard against threats in the future.
May wisdom guide our present leaders to swiftly determine the guilty, both individuals and the nations that aid them, and use the fullest might of our military to punish them. Only in this way will the world know we still have the moral standards of a free people, and the courage to defend that freedom. May the God, which many believe in, keep our leaders from using this crisis as an excuse to turn this great stronghold of liberty into a totalitarian state, on the pretext of defending ourselves.
-- W.S. Dawson, Indian Rocks Beach
I'm certainly no psychic, but these words from a letter I sent on another subject, just before hearing of the latest terrorist act, seem oddly prescient:
"So long as humans are indoctrinated into belief in a divine power that can justify anything if they are acting in its name, so long as human beings have egos large enough to believe they have some special connection with this divinity, murder will be committed in its name. Only the recognition that we are all equally human, and that no human can even prove a deity exists (much less know what it wants), will lead to peace."
What more is there to say? How many times must it be said before we understand and accept it?
-- Brent Yaciw, Wesley Chapel
Our first natural response as human beings to the incredible violence of Sept. 11 is to reject and condemn the brutality and inhumanity of such actions, and to offer our condolences and compassion to the families and communities who lost loved ones. Everyone supports bringing the perpetrators of these attacks to justice, and it is prudent that preventive measures be taken to prevent such attacks in the future.
But fellow citizens, beware! We must not allow our emotions to blind us to the grave danger the current political situation presents to all who struggle for global peace and disarmament, and for social and economic justice.
The drumbeat of militarism and war is now sounding along the Potomac. A chorus calls for military action and "retaliation," and the language used makes it clear that this horrific tragedy will now be utilized as an opportunity to win public support for increases in the already bloated military and intelligence budgets.
Bipartisan support is now virtually assured for "missile defense" funding, and military contractors will undoubtedly take advantage of the political climate to push for for huge increases in the Pentagon budget. But will all this make us more secure?
Our nation is now reaping the result of an arrogant, militaristic and interventionist foreign policy. But rather than acknowledge and deal honestly with the root causes of violent terrorist actions, most prefer to pound their fists and expound about a "declaration of war." But the "war on terrorism" now being called for, like the so-called "war on drugs" before it, will have extremely costly and long-reaching implications for both U.S. citizens and people around the world.
This "war" is clearly not about bringing the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 actions to justice; it will end up being nothing less that a carte blanche for the launching of a military and economic offensive against designated "enemies," and to provide a rationale for stifling political dissent at home. The "war" now being hyped in Washington will increase, not decrease, the probability of future attacks on U.S. targets by those who feel dispossessed and oppressed by U.S. policies.
I say to the Bush administration and to Congress: No more wars in my name!
-- Michael Canney, St. Petersburg
Re: Don't answer violence with violence, letter, Sept. 14.
The letter writer says, "We need to rise above combating violence with violence and set the example for making the world a more compassionate and beautiful place."
That's exactly the kind of thinking over the past years that is directly responsible for Tuesday's attacks on this country. It's high time we stopped trying to set examples and started talking to the rest of the world in a language they understand.
-- A.T. Barnard, Beverly Hills
I spent Tuesday glued to the television, sickened by what I saw. On Wednesday I was again sickened as I read two of the letters in the Times.
One, (A key question), asked "What on earth is the United States doing to make people hate us this much?" The other, (Beware of foreign meddling), states, "The only way to prevent such attacks is to not draw them in the first place."
Both of these letter writers have it all wrong. They blame the victim, insinuating that the United States has brought this tragedy upon itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The writers wrongly assume rational thought on the part of these terrorists. Let us apply their logic to racists in America. What did black folks do to whites to make racist whites hate them enough to lynch them by the hundreds? What did black folks do to whites to cause a group of racist whites to bomb a church and kill four innocent little black girls?
America as a whole no more brought these attacks upon itself than black Americans brought lynching and bombings upon themselves. Like those racists in our own history, the terrorists who committed these acts were motivated by a blinding, irrational hatred that defies any explanation. Any attempt to rationalize the irrational can only lead to more insanity.
-- John L. Perry, Tampa
I am a 34-year-old American Muslim whose parents emigrated from Egypt to the United States in 1967. I was very fortunate to be raised by Muslim parents who believed in instilling the true Islamic teachings in their children: Belief in the Almighty God and obedience to his commandments. To be worthy of God's pleasure, we had to be honest and fair in all of our dealings; we had to be kind and merciful to all people and to all of God's creations; whatever we did, we had to do well.
I truly believe that I speak for Islam and for all Muslims when I condemn, unconditionally, the heinous crimes perpetrated in New York City and Washington, D.C., this past Tuesday. Islam forbids the killing of innocent life and forbids acts of terror.
As a Muslim, my heart goes out to all the families and friends of those killed in the Tuesday tragedies. As a Muslim, my heart goes out to all of the survivors of the tragedies, and I pray that they recover quickly and are soon re-united with their loved ones.
As a member of the Islamic community in Tampa Bay, I stand ready, as do my fellow Muslims, to assist in any way possible. I know that many Muslims have given blood over the past few days and that many more will donate in the days to come. The Muslim physicians in the Tampa Bay Area stand ready to donate medical services and supplies if called upon; many have already sent financial contributions to the Red Cross and other rescue organizations.
The tragedies of Tuesday were everyone's tragedies; everyone was touched by the enormity of the crimes. We must all stand together against such acts, here and throughout the world. America was built on the most basic belief that every person is entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Those who feel that they have the right to take away these most basic human rights should be punished to the highest extent of the law.
May we all unite to assist in the healing process.
-- Magda Elkadi Saleh, Spring Hill
Re: The leaders who passed and failed in the face of these terrorist acts, Sept. 14.
Mary McGrory is off base in her comments regarding President Bush and his actions pertaining to the terrorist attacks. It made logical sense for the president to be in a safe place while conditions in the Washington area were not stable. Prudent people think that the president should be protected when terrorists are attacking our country.
As far as his refrence to the terrorist as "folks," so what? Should he have said "bastards" instead? McGrory goes on to say he appeared apprehensive. Given the challenge he knows is ahead, who wouldn't appear apprehensive? Does McGrory have so much hostility toward President Bush that in a time when we should stand united with him she must fire cheap shots?
-- Dan Pennisi, Palm Harbor
Mary McGrory just doesn't get it. America has been attacked. Who is she to judge the actions of our president on Tuesday. Both Air Force One and the White House were targets. The president needs to be protected. What would she have: Air Force One on display as a target for the next hijacked plane?
She should leave her political ideology behind the way Congress has. If the president had been killed, it could have thrown us into a true World War III. Shame on Mary McGrory.
-- Marc Scheel, Tarpon Springs
Re: The leaders who passed and failed in the face of these terrorist acts, Sept. 14.
Mary McGrory and her twisted logic are exactly why responsible Americans no longer believe the media are capable of reporting news without bias. Her critical comments regarding the actions taken by the president and those responsible for his protection, are totally without thought. According to McGrory, the president should have immediately returned to Washington, where journalists could have easy access to him.
God only knows what state of mind the nation would be in now if, in addition to those lives already stolen, our country had lost its president. The purpose of protecting the president is to keep the leadership intact so that the country can respond to a national emergency.
-- Robert D. Pease, New Port Richey
Re: Where did the government go? by Maureen Dowd, Sept. 13.
Well, we have heard from our newly found, modern-day "Axis Sally" cheerfully trashing the president, this time during a national tragedy.
We don't want her silenced, just recognized for what she is: a venom-spitting left-wing vixen.
-- Richard D. Nolte Sr., Clearwater
I am completely appalled by the photo that was on the back of the extended America Under Attack section on Wednesday. As an educator, I cannot see the purpose of this tasteless act. These papers are read not only by adults but also by elementary schoolchildren. As an adult, I could not bear to look at it any longer when I realized what was happening. Can you image the effect it would have on a child?
I can understand that this image is an example of the tragedy that took place Tuesday and would have made an impact no matter how it was presented. Was it necessary to enlarge it to a full page? I am disappointed in the conscience of the Times for the way the photo was presented.
-- Stephanie Smith, Largo
For the most part I enjoy reading your newspaper, but the full-page spread on the back of Section A on Wednesday was neither necessary nor called for. That photograph was cold, tactless and unfeeling. Not one American was spared the affect of this tragedy, whether we witnessed it firsthand or from far away.
We are sickened by the events and feel vulnerable, scared and angry about what happened on Tuesday. We certainly didn't need this kind of exploitive journalism to make us wonder what those poor people in that building were going through and how horrible it must have been for them. You made a big mistake in judgment; shame on you.
-- Leslie Ostergard, Clearwater
Just a note to commend you for your superb coverage of the events of Sept. 11. The range, quality and quantity of material written by your staff and assembled from other sources were amazing. Your ranking among the top 10 papers in the country was reaffirmed. I especially liked the photographs. They helped convey how dramatic and horrific the attack was. That cannot be done with "pretty" pictures.
-- Louis Paulson, Palm Harbor
I want to applaud the Times for its journalistic integrity. Your job was unpleasant. However, you did it the way it should have been done. Unlike the writers of the Sept. 12 letters, Photo reaches a new low and Don't add to the psychological pain, I want to know the whole truth. Please don't try to spare my feelings by omitting things that are dreadful.
The photo on Page 30A Wednesday was absolutely horrific. We are allowed to put the newspaper down. We are allowed to turn the channel. We are allowed to keep on living. But we should never be allowed to forget.
-- April M. Hendry, Wesley Chapel
Dropping a couple of hundred bombs on Afghanistan is not going to solve the problem. The United States must get Osama bin Laden and all his cohorts, then start on the rest. Terrorism is a multiheaded snake. MSNBC used the statement that the United States "should not lose it's cool," referring to the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Although, I am not advocating nuclear weapons, the United States must leave all its options open. Whether the American public wants to believe it or not, we are at war! The events of Tuesday will surely change this nation forever.
-- J.A. Dromm, Clearwater
I am utterly devastated by the loss of life that these terrorists attacks have brought. But even more so, I am horrified by what will become the aftermath. Of course, I would like to see justice done. But how can we in any way bring justice to this situation?
I pray for the human spirit to overcome this event. We need to look each other in the eyes, not with our simple minds and raging anger, but with our hearts. May we see the error in this aggression and learn from it, acting slowly and deliberately. May we avoid the retaliatory mentality to strike back in rage and instead pray for our enemies.
-- Brian Dufala, Pinellas Park
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