Today’s guest post was written by my Dad ten years ago, just 24 hours after the first aircraft struck the World Trade Center. It still resonates, and is presented here in honor of the victims whose lives were lost on that tragic day.
Terror versus Care: A message to terrorists
I have never seen the face of God. But in the darkness I reached out and touched His face. And felt tears.
This is a message to terrorists. You like to deal with symbols… the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon. I will give you back a symbol… the American emergency worker. Many were doing the gruesome task of triage at the foot of the burning Trade Center when the first tower collapsed. Their caring cost their lives.
Your problem is that you do not understand caring. Neither can you even begin to understand freedom. The United States is a grand experiment in both caring and freedom. The emergency worker is an apt symbol.
To care is to persist in a free choice to pour out oneself for the benefit of another. Our police, firefighters, and ambulance attendants may obscure their caring by gruff ways and by unwillingness to talk about some of the worst of what they see. Yet these people persist through the most terrible circumstances, putting their lives on the line, in order to salvage human dignity. Caring is not an emotion. Caring is a choice, a free choice, and the people who really care keep at it, even when all hell is bursting loose. Yesterday, you and your fellow terrorists provided the hell. And Americans provided the caring. Our emergency personnel cared through action. Leaders cared through words of comfort and determination. Many millions of us cared through prayer.
You despise our freedom. Your world is one of retribution, of harsh justice, of hatred. You cared nothing for the over 200 people on aircraft that you commandeered. You cared nothing of the people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. You cared only for your cause, your sense of outraged justice.
Freedom does not mean that people get things right. We make free choices, and some of them turn out to be wrong. We are under no illusion that the United States is perfect. Perhaps each of us has a list of things we would change if we were in authority. But this we believe firmly … freedom is the better way.
Perhaps you see our caring, our openness, our freedom as weakness. Careful! Do not mistake vulnerability for weakness. Yes, we are vulnerable to your tactics. Yes, you can visit us with all manner of mayhem and pain. We do not doubt that you will try again. You may destroy property and lives. But do not be deluded. You will never overcome freedom. You cannot destroy a way of life committed to human dignity.
Our greatest concern at this point is that, in responding to your attacks, we do not become like you.
What separates us is not East versus west, Islam versus Christianity, poor versus rich. Rather, it is the vision of God. He has given us the gift of life. He has given us freedom to choose whether or not to care. In the past 24 hours, your “martyrs” piloted aircraft into buildings containing many innocents. In the same period, some of our emergency workers have laid down their lives in caring. If God is the stern demander of justice, whose shoes would you want to be in — killer or one who has cared? If God is the Father of all mercy, who has infinite care for every one of his children, whose shoes would you want to be in — killer or one who has cared?
Reach out with us into the darkness, and touch the face of God. What shall we find?
September 12, 2001, 8:42 a.m.
Note: My Dad is a former minister, missionary, professor, and entrepreneur. Yet one of the experiences that shaped his life more than any other is suggested by the way he signed off on this post, and explains his deep identification with the emergency workers of 9/11. Somehow, within 24 hours, I think Dad got it right. His byline:
Volunteer Driver / Attendant
Bolton Ambulance Service
1978 to 1985
Our world changed forever on 9/11. What shall we find, indeed… and ten years later, what have we found?