I look back to the words I wrote 11 years ago the day after the Twin Towers fell
Eleven years and two wars now separate us from the tragic events of 9/11. As I perform in a show about America’s response to another attack 70 years ago, it struck me today that I should revisit what I wrote on 9/12/01. I present it to you unedited below. Reading it now, I am filled with conflicting emotions–including deep misgivings about how I had hoped the attack would unite us behind common American ideals, and what actually later came to pass.
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The magnitude of the atrocities that we watched in sheer horror on our television sets on the morning of September 11, 2001, is still growing in the grotesque count of casualties. The human tragedies are unimaginable. The pain in our hearts is unbearable.
Out of the wreckage, though, emerged uncommon courage and humanity. Firefighters, police officers, and volunteers worked under harrowing conditions to try to save the victims of the devastation. Their valor, their extraordinary sacrifices stirred our spirits. The casualties among these brave heroes compound the horror and grief.
Our revulsion, heartache, and sheer shock at the enormity of the tragedy must now turn to resolve. Those cowardly fanatics who planned, aided, and executed these acts of terror must be brought to justice. Theirs was an assault, not only on the United States and all that we stand for, but against the very values of civilized society throughout this world.
The focus of the terrorists was on the fundamental ideals of the United States. The free enterprise that was symbolized by the World Trade Center, the might of the U.S. that was symbolized by the Pentagon and the freedom and democracy that was symbolized by the Statue of Liberty clearly visible in New York harbor, were threats to those deranged but cunning fanatics. They do not know how potent a force a roused and united America can be. In a crisis, we will act — and act with commanding vigor.
That power will be exercised with our American values intact. Attorney General John Ashcroft forcefully stated that the target is the terrorist criminals and their associates — not Muslims, not Arabs, not Middle Easterners. Congress passed a resolution on Friday night to protect the rights of Muslims, Arab Americans and South Asian Americans. Unlike the racial hysteria that followed the Pearl Harbor bombing by Japan, when Americans of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in American concentration camps solely because of their ethnicity, the Attorney General was very clear that race, religion and background will not be the focus of this campaign. It will be the evidence of criminality. The lesson of history has been instructive this time around.
Deplorably, we still have dangerously ignorant hysterics among us in America. There have been shots fired into mosques, Arab American businesses painted with the word “Die!” and reports of a Sikh person shot and killed in Arizona. These domestic fanatics are no better than the terrorists. Their acts shame America and besmirch the glory of our Stars and Stripes. They, too, must be tried and punished — unlike the victims of their ignorant racism.
Last night, I went to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl as I had planned some time ago. I refuse to let terrorism affect me. I will not let them win by forcing me to change my plans. The concert was glorious. At the end of the evening, the soloists, Marni Nixon, Nell Carter and Lauren Frost took their bows, then led us in singing “America the Beautiful.” Fifteen thousand rose up in full voice. The hills of Hollywood resounded strong, united, and magnificent. Neither terrorism nor ignorance will stand in this America today.