Whatever It Takes

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Initial reaction to September 11.–Ed

I live in New York City.

Maybe I live eight miles away from the World Trade Center. Just walk a couple blocks and I could see them. At least I used to.

I had to go out on a computer-related errand. Just before I got over to the Best Buy, somebody yelled out that the first tower had collapsed.

I thought this silly. These things were supposed to withstand a 747 crashing into them.

But I got to a clearing where I could look, and then there was one.

It was a surreal sight. All around me, you had regular traffic. I have no idea where most of it thought it was going, since it was heading to Manhattan, and nobody’s getting into Manhattan anymore today.

The only sign you saw that this wasn’t a typical day was the plumes of smoke, black for the standing building, white for the collapsed one.

In some odd way, it was quiet. Distance is so antiseptic.

I quickly did what I had to do and went home. For some reason, I lingered by the TV set an extra moment. I half-expected to see tower number two crumple before my eyes, which it then almost immediately proceded to do. Crumpled like a deck of cards.

For a few seconds, millions must have prayed they were seeing videotape. They weren’t.

And then there was none.

It doesn’t matter.

Over fifty thousand people work in those buildings. How many were in the building at the time? How many got evacuated? Don’t know, but it would take a miracle for this not to be the greatest disaster in the city’s history.

It doesn’t matter.

The Pentagon was on fire last I looked. So was the Washington Mall near the Capitol. Whoever attacked was big on symbolism.

It doesn’t matter.

I don’t know who did it, but whoever did this had a cause; they died for it; they no doubt thought they had good reason.

But then, so did the Japanese dive-bombers at Pearl Harbor, and those who did this made the same vain sacrifice.

Because no matter how many people died or got hurt or crippled or maimed, it doesn’t matter, just like Pearl Harbor didn’t matter.

None of this matters because none of this will stop America from doing what needs to be done.

We Americans are slow to anger, and many have mistaken that for weakness. But do not ever make us mad. And this has made us mad. Not emotional, hysterical mad. Cold rage mad.

If I know my country, America will say, “Now it’s personal.” And if there is any human force greater than the ingenious will of a United States united in wrath, the world doesn’t want to know about it.

So we will find and count and bury and mourn our dead. Then we will do what has to be done. Whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes.

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