SEPTEMBER 14, 2001

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

REBUILD IT: Someone sent me this small quote from a book on architecture. It’s from Minoru Yamasaki, the designer of the World Trade Center. Yamasaki wrote: “The World Trade Center should, because of its importance, become a living representation of man’s belief in humanity, his need for individual dignity, his belief in the co-operation of men, and through this co-operation his ability to find greatness.” No wonder these demons destroyed it. I want Bush tomorrow to say that we will rebuild it – taller, bigger, stronger. And that the flag that was placed by firefighters in the rubble should fly one day on its roof.

FALWELL GOES BEYOND THE PALE: So far relatively few have used this terrible tragedy for political points. Here is what Jerry Falwell said on the 700 Club: “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.'” Pat Robertson concurred: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted their agenda at the highest levels of our government.” I cannot express how personally wounded I and so many others are by his attempt to associate many Americans – some of whom were victims of this evil and some of whom were heroes – with the demons who carried it out. It is unspeakably wrong and inappropriate. We are at war. We must stand together or we will fail.

APOLOGIES: I’m sorry for the thin dish today. I have just finished two essays for the New York Times magazine and the Sunday Times of London on this event and its meaning. I’ve written over 6000 words in one day and I’m spent. Worse, it was impossible to think and write honestly about this without seeing the screen blur with the tears in my eyes. In my life as a writer, I’ve never come across an event that I could not somehow professionally analyze and dissect with some enthusiasm and zest. But this was just something I deeply didn’t want to write. I just wanted the event to be undone. I realize more than ever that, seventeen years after coming to this amazing place, I am an American now. When they placed the flag on the rubble, I wept as I have rarely wept before. And then when I saw the Queen’s Guards at Buckingham palace play the Star Spangled Banner, it occurred to me how deeply appropriate this was. Isn’t everyone on the side of civilization an honorary American now? It is hard to realize after this unspeakable act that we are not alone. There is hatred for America and it is loud and powerful. But beneath that, around the world, there is also a quiet reservoir of love and gratitude that foreign national pride will not always allow full expression. We must remember that. And we must not let them down. They are watching now to see what we do and what kind of people we are. We must show them as we have never shown them before that a deep humanity and an unremitting rage are not incompatible. We must show them what we are made of – and keep their hope alive.