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I was scheduled to be on an American Airlines flight this past Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
Normally, I would have hopped on, transferred once, and after arriving home wouldn't have thought twice about it. But this week has been far from normal. This week, it's almost all I've been able to think about. Out of thousands scheduled to fly that day, hundreds died, and the rest of us never left the ground. Unknown numbers perished in New York City and Washington and a field in Pennsylvania, and I fear nothing will be normal again.
I don't know how I'm supposed to react to this incredible act of hatred and violence against our nation. I'm numb, shocked, saddened and confused, as is most of the country.
By all reports, it's been staged by a large, well-organized group of terrorists, operating "terrorist cells" around the world. The most talked about suspect, Osama (or Usama, depending on which paper you read) Bin Laden, is most likely going to be held accountable, unless someone else comes forward and takes credit for these acts of war - and I don't think anyone's stupid enough to do that, now that we've shown how angry we are and how united we can become.
This event has brought our country together, swiftly and loudly. We have started to sing the National Anthem more emphatically than ever before, with a sense of pride that was forgotten for far too long. There's no more talk about changing the lyrics, or rewriting the song to make it easier to sing - people open their mouths and they sing as Francis Scott Key intended. The same with "God Bless America" and "America The Beautiful." I hate that it took such a tragic event, such horrible destruction on our own soil, for us to remember how those songs go.
|I will never have enough words.|
I hope we find the people who did this. I want to forget the concept of cruel and unusual punishment, and I would offer anyone who has lost a loved one five minutes alone with the guilty parties and the Craftsman power tool of their choice. I want these unspeakable cowards to suffer, and I want them to die. I'm sorry to say that so plainly and coldly, but it's utterly true.
I hear suggestions from people who are thirsty for any blood, people who demand we blow Afghanistan, whose leaders have harbored Bin Laden in the past, back to the Stone Ages. Guess what? They're there already.
I want to see justice carried out, but I don't want to see more innocent people die. Not folks who live in cities that are ruled by evil dictators, but who are themselves, just people like us. People who want the best for their families, people who want a better life for their children, people who would rather not be bothered by the government. They didn't ask for any of this, any more than we did.
I felt a terrible mixture of emotions watching people dance in the streets over our tragedy. One part of me hated them for celebrating our deaths, our losses; another part of me was sad for them. Sad, because they don't know better - their government starves them, robs them and lies to them. They may actually believe what happened to us will make their lives better somehow. And I'm afraid they may have signed their own death warrants.
There have been reports of violence towards Middle Easterners this past week - hopefully, that won't grow. Racism and hatred isn't what America is supposed to be about. And, technically, Afghanistan isn't in the Middle East - it's a part of Southern Asia. If you're going to beat somebody up because of their country of origin, try to make sure you're at least on the same continent.
When I was finally able to return home early Saturday morning after commercial flights had begun to run again I had a cab driver who, it turned out, was originally from Pakistan, which is right between Afghanistan and India - a dangerous chunk of real estate. I asked him how things had been for him since the attacks, and he said he had been fine. His Mosque had received some bomb threats, but nothing had happened.
Nothing had happened, he said. Essentially, his church had received bomb threats, and he said nothing had happened.
I apologized to him, for the anger of these people, people who were supposed to be my people, but people who would be so low that they would threaten innocents in their own place of worship. I understand that we're all angry, hurt, confused, enraged - but in the America I grew up in, you don't threaten people in their church.
The good things America is supposed to be about are happening in abundance. Blood banks are being flooded with donors, money is pouring in to the Red Cross and firefighters associations across the country, people are opening their wallets and their hearts and are flying the Stars and Stripes more than I have ever seen on a non-Fourth of July weekday. When you see the reports of the people on the streets, the little tales of hope and heroism that keep turning up, you can't help but feel proud. Proud to be an American.
Conduct yourselves like true Americans in the coming weeks. Listen to your leaders, and to your loved ones, and to your hearts, and continue to make us all proud. Let's remember to bring justice to those who deserve it, and to try to stay just in our actions.
I used to spend quite a bit of time in New York City. I've performed there on many occasions, as well as in and around Washington, D.C. I've seen the Pentagon before this past bloody Tuesday, and I stood at the base of the World Trade Centers when they stretched so far to the heavens you'd strain your neck and your eyes and still not see the top. I hope to see these things again. I dream of it.
And in America, dreams will always be able to come true.
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