Categorized | 911

We must learn from the past

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By Lydia Tilbury Hair
Originally published Sunday, September 16, 2001

We have had a few days now to absorb the violence that is most likely the single worst tragedy ever to happen on American soil.

Those of us who write about these things began to run out of adjectives. Horrible, dreadful, ghastly, shocking, nightmarish, horrific, cowardly and unbelievable have all been used and certainly apply. But now, we are using different words, great resolve, determined, intent and resolute.

The events of Tuesday have been compared to Pearl Harbor. They are comparable in more ways than one. It was obviously an unexpected attack for which we were unprepared. Innocent people were killed by the thousands with no preparation to present a defense.

But for me the most striking similarity is summed up in the words of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto following the attack on Pearl Harbor:

“I fear all I have done is awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

That is what I have seen in the people I have talked to and those I have heard on radio and television. Americans from all walks of life, from our president to the average man on the street, are filled with a resolve. It is a resolve not only to catch and punish those responsible, but also to let those that would terrorize America know that Americans have had enough of being a target and the time for talking is over. Enough Americans have died at the hands of “faceless cowards,” as President Bush called them. The blood shed on American soil in such a way as this seems too much for citizens to bear, too much to tolerate .

Certainly just plain anger is fueling many of the remarks that have been made. Outrage is heard in voices of politician, soldier and citizen. Whether the terrorists know it or not, what they have done is pull the American people together in a way that is formidable. American flag sales have sky-rocketed. You see them and homemade signs of patriotism all over town. I am sure it is the same all over the country. A scene which I will always remember occurred Tuesday at a press conference with senators and representatives on the steps of the U.S.Capitol in Washington D.C.

Following the remarks by the legislators, everyone spontaneously broke into singing “America The Beautiful.” No partisan politics, just Americans, together, unified in their pain and their resolve.

Times like these can show just what a culture is made of. What the people are like, what they believe, what they will tolerate and what they won’t. On a radio talk show the day after the attack, most of those who called in said that they thought America should retaliate with force, and if innocent people were killed, well, that is just what had to happen. It was regrettable, but the time for mercy is passed as far as most callers were concerned.

But one caller said that if America responded with violence, then we, as a country, are no better than the terrorists. This certainly gives one pause and creates a moral dilemma with no easy answer.

The thing we must guard against is truly becoming like our enemies, such as attacking those that are not guilty. In the Metroplex, at least two Muslim mosques have been vandalized.

We must not make the same mistakes that have been made all throughout history, judging and condemning one group of people because of who they are and what they are. The Jews have suffered this all through history. And following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this country forced thousands of Japanese Americans into internment camps for no other reason than that they were Japanese.

We must take lessons from the past and not condemn all for the actions of a few, no matter how despicable and intolerable those actions may be. Let the military and law enforcement do what they must against those that are determined to be guilty. We must not become like our attackers who bring terror on people they do not know, simply because of hate.

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