I wrote this piece nine years ago and it continues to reflect what I believe to be the truth about our country, The United States of America, and what I consider to be the greatest metropolis in the world, New York City.
Where Have All the Heroes Gone?
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we found out. With absolute clarity, under profound and indelibly imprinted experience it was revealed to us. In the indisputable and universal language of disaster and despair we met our heroes..... and they are us.
Somewhere on the way to the bank...while making this the richest nation ever, during our passionate discussion of life and the value of it, during our playful moments at ballgames and on vacations, in our moments of art....sharing with our children and the world our joy of life and appreciation for the past, and in our creative moments.. as we developed the most amazing technology intended to save lives, to communicate with each other and to create and entertain....we became our own heros.
We became the people we saw in
We became firefighters that set out to climb 90 flights of stairs laden with 120 pounds of equipment needed to do their jobs and to save lives. We became priests who did not hesitate to follow them in. We became the kind of people who would not leave a man in a wheel chair behind in fear for their own lives. We became men and women who stood in line for six hours to give blood to strangers who needed that blood.
We have reared children who spent their day making peanut butter sandwiches for those waiting to hear from their lost ones. We reared children who grew up to be young men who recognized that they were to be used as part of an incredibly horrible weapon launched against the most precious symbol of our nation and decided to not let it happen.
We have become a people who may anoint any kind of leader they choose. Rich or poor, intelligent or less so, moral or immoral, sick or well, ...because in bad times, in HARD times, we lead ourselves and each other.
I do not say this with arrogance or pride. I certainly take no personal credit for this phenomenon. But I have recognized it, as many others surely have in these past few days, with the most awesome humility and gratitude.
And we in calmer ports,...in gentler mid-west, west and southern climes..............have often held New Yorkers in very low esteem. We have asked ourselves why they have to be so loud and move so fast and act so gregariously. Many of us had let ourselves become convinced that these New Yorkers were all a hard and uncaring people capable of great meanness.
Last Tuesday, September 11, 2001, we saw the heart of New Yorkers....bloodied and hurt beyond knowing....with perfect discipline and order...performing incredible feats of courage, love and faith. We have seen the value of their character, and I for one will never forget them.