Making sense of madness: the Texan’s response to 9/11


AP Exchange

A runner captures a moment in front of a 9/11 memorial. 

Editor’s Note: This editorial, in response to the horrific events of 9/11, ran in the Texan on Sept. 12, 2001. Although controversial for urging careful reflection, rather than war, at a time of national crisis and outrage, it holds important lessons for today. 

The first few moments after a massive catastrophe are often the most important. But as we collectively grasp for explanations and information, it is imperative that our grief not completely overwhelm measured and reasoned responses.

In light of the horrendous tragedies that have taken place across the eastern United States, talk of war certainly seems premature. The most urgent need is for governments and relief organizations at all levels to provide emergency medical assistance and any other functions needed to account for and treat everyone involved.

The time for acts of war and heated rhetoric about revenge is later. And the time will inevitably come for such actions. Analysis of the attacks will continue for years to come.

However, declaring this an act of war comparable to the attack on Pearl Harbor — as many observers and professional pundits have — while simultaneously requesting Americans stay calm seems counterintuitive. The same battle cries tried to whip us into a retaliatory frenzy after the tragic bombing in Oklahoma City, only to find that the terrorist was one of us.

Unfortunately, this act highlights the kind of terrorism America will never be able to defend itself against. American soil is no longer sacred. The taboo was broken when the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993. The equation now confronting us involves balancing security with fear, safety with freedom.

The terrorists aboard those planes were willing to take their own lives to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the people inside. That kind of adherence to ideological doctrine and strategy can never be eliminated — no matter how many shields or guns we try to hide behind.

Creating security provisions and checkpoints for every port of entry, border, flight, boat, train, bus and immigrant that enters our country is logistically impossible. Numerous foreign policy experts admit that America had always known something like this was possible. Yesterday, the inevitable became reality.

The United States has staked itself out as the world’s leader, and we have a long history of political and military actions which helped us get to where we are. Such dominance is almost always historically marked by pointed and painful acts of resistance. Needless to say, we have made ourselves a high-profile and attractive target. The American military and global financial institutions are rife with symbolic value.

There have been many moments in history that have defined us as a nation. This undoubtedly ranks at the top. The sheer destruction and loss of life is truly unfathomable. Our character will be tested by the nature of our response to our suffering and fears. 

The American people would do well to ignore the grandstanding by opportunistic politicians eager to piggyback their pet causes on this horrible nightmare. Endless theories abound — and will continue to proliferate — as to why we were attacked and who is responsible.

Now is not the time for that. We must close ranks and deal with this catastrophe as a country and community before we can move forward.