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Editor’s Note: In observance of Patriot Day, The Wilson Times is republishing two editorials written shortly after Sept. 11 that reflect the local and national sentiment following a dark day in American history where American bravery, sacrifice and hope shone through.
Terrorists declare war on U.S.
This is war. Make no mistake about it. When an enemy kills thousands of innocent Americans, it is a war, and America must treat Tuesday’s horrific terrorist attacks as a war.
One congressman called Tuesday’s series of airplane hijackings and crashes in New York and Washington “a second Pearl Harbor.” But in terms of loss of life and of the cruelty of targeting, Pearl Harbor pales in comparison.
Although the Japanese airplanes struck without warning on that “day that will live in infamy” 60 years ago, their targets were military weapons — ships and airplanes in the harbor and at Hickam Field. But the thousands of people working in the World Trade Center in New York were not military personnel. They had little or no military value. And the terrified passengers on the airplanes that the terrorists flew into the skyscrapers were innocent travelers.
Although no foreign power has taken credit for this attack, it is strongly suggested that Arab terrorists must be responsible. Celebrations in Palestinian villages bolstered this belief. Whoever did this dastardly deed exhibited a level of sophistication, knowledge and coordination that is usually unheard of among terrorist groups. Just getting at least four hijackers past airport security is an accomplishment in itself. To plan and coordinate this whole series of well-timed attacks calls for exceptional capabilities.
It is speculated that at least one other hijacked plane was intended to crash into the White House or the Capitol. If these attacks had fully succeeded, the United States would have been bereft of its symbols of power from New York to Washington.
President Bush called the terrorists “faceless cowards,” but this underestimates the commitment and intensity of these zealots. It takes a special kind of bravery to sacrifice one’s own life for a cause, but it is cowardice to spring surprise attacks on defenseless people.
America must unite behind the effort to identify the perpetrators of this infamous crime and punish those who are responsible. The acts of terrorists must not sway America from its purpose in the world or from its democratic principles. We will deal with this tragedy, we will rebuild our infrastructure, and we will destroy those who attack us.
As the unquestioned most powerful nation in the world, we have the power to strike back with devastating force, and we must do so without hesitation once the perpetrators have been clearly identified. If it is a war they want, they will have it.
Published in The Wilson Daily Times on Sept. 12, 2001
Attacks have unified Americans
Sunday’s community service on the Wilson County Courthouse steps epitomized what is good and right with America and with this community. The service was put together by the Wilson Human Relations Commission and area churches. It included a different faiths, different races and different theologies, all joining together to comfort the community in its grief, sadness and anger over the events of Sept. 11.
The keynote speaker, N.C. Supreme Court Justice G.K. Butterfield Jr., is an African-American, who reminded the audience that the Human Relations Commission was born out of the cataclysm of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Ministers white and black spoke. A brief speech in Spanish was read. Interpreters for the deaf were present. Prayers were offered by an Islamic imam and by a Jewish layman.
The theme of unity and diversity was fitting for an American small town. While we are different in appearance and experiences, we are all Americans united by an allegiance to democratic ideals and dreams that can become reality. And we are collectively hurt and saddened by attacks on innocent Americans.
Only in America, a nation of immigrants, can we celebrate the oxymoronic concepts of diversity and unity at once. This nation, like no other, has gained strength from its melting pot of divergent cultures that have been absorbed into the American culture. Better than any other country, the United States has succeeded in judging people by their abilities and productiveness, not by their ancestry, their color, their religion or their kinship.
In times of war, such as we now face against a vast terrorist network, Americans have sometimes forgotten their principles. Loyal Japanese-Americans were interned in the fear that gripped this country during World War II. There have been reports of vigilante attacks on Arab-Americans in the days since Sept. 11.
But, for the most part, Americans have recognized that a few misguided criminals, not all Muslims or all people of Arab ancestry, committed these horrendous crimes. Wilson is home to a substantial population of Lebanese descendants who are pillars of the community. A number of Muslims live here. In his remarks Sunday at the courthouse, Imam Dawud Abdus-Salaam missed an opportunity to tell his audience that orthodox Islam is a religion of peace, and the radical terrorists who hijack airplanes and kill innocent people do not represent his religion.
The horrors committed against this country Sept. 11 have unified it across religious, ethnic, racial, regional and political lines as nothing ever has before. If we remain unified and keep our sights on the goal of eradicating terrorism around the globe, we will succeed.
Published in The Wilson Daily Times on Sept. 19, 2001