World Trade Center     
Never Forget
Two Years Later...

Two years. I can't believe it. Two years ago. It doesn't seem possible. Wasn't it just yesterday? The shock, the anger, the pain, the fury, the hurt... Can it possibly be two years already?

I look back at what I wrote a year ago... and regret to say that much of it remains true today: "Many of us, especially those of us in the New York area, remain deeply affected by the events of 9/11. We sleep more fitfully. We startle more easily. We look up when we hear a plane in the sky. We wince at the sight of a low flying jet. We turn for comfort to things we hope will make us feel better -- to comfort foods, sometimes even to alcohol or to drugs. It doesn't take much to bring us to tears. We have been deeply injured. We have not yet healed."

I wonder if we ever really will. If it's even possible. When the blackout hit the region a few weeks ago, the first thing any of us thought of was terrorism... we are still frightened. Just last week the last funeral was held for a New York City firefighter killed on 9/11. The skirl of bagpipes still brought tears to my eyes. Just last night the news was filled with yet another tape from Osama bin Laden. And just the sight of that man still makes me rage.

If there is anything at all that has helped carry me through these dark and difficult times, it has been family. Family past, family present, family future.

As to family past, I have worked very hard to discover my roots in the past year, and have discovered to my amazement and delight that I have deep roots extending back to colonial times. Members of my family have been in nearly every war this country has ever fought -- the Revolution (I qualify for the Daughters of the American Revolution at least three times over), the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War (probably on both sides), World War I, World War II, Korea, even now in Iraq. Things that were just history for me before have become more real, more compelling, knowing, for example, that I had a fourth great grandfather at Valley Forge. We helped settle the mid-Atlantic states, the southern states, Texas and the west. I want to know more about all of these folks from the past. They help me feel grounded, settled, rooted.

Family present. I was able to watch one of my brothers finally marry the love of his life this year. My sister began teaching, as she has always wanted to do. Another brother was written up in The New Yorker as a leading scientist in his field. I have spent a lot more time with cousins and aunts and uncles, and come to know "new" cousins in the course of the family history research. In the course of these past two years many of these folks have gone from "just" being family to also being friends. I want to spend much more time with all these family present. They help me feel loved and comforted and wanted.

And family future. I've had the great joy of watching my nephew Dennis change from infant to toddler to little boy, and to learn that later this year he will be a big brother to another little guy. I haven't had a chance to spend near enough time with my great niece Sydney and that's something I'm going to work on. Looking at Dennis and thinking of his brother, looking at Sydney... they help me feel that there will be a future. They remind me that we have to do everything we can to protect it, for them.

I'm not sure what any one of us, individually, can do to defeat terrorism and protect the future for the Dennises and Sydneys of the world. It seems like such a task, as Mayor Giuliani quoted Winston Churchill telling Britons to: "Repair the waste. Rebuild the ruins. Heal the wounds. Crown the victors. Comfort the broken and broken-hearted."

But the one thing we can do, the one thing we must do, is live free and open and loving lives. The country the terrorists attacked is one where I want these children to grow up -- a place where people read, and ask questions, and challenge ways of thinking, and reject closed minds, and protect human rights and civil rights, and abide by and value the rule of law. It's a place where justice is achieved at the ballot box and in the courtroom -- not by pointing a gun or blowing up a building. Where dissent is valued and the right to dissent is sacrosanct. It is a country where everyone is equal under the law, where opportunity does not depend on race or gender, where -- quite literally -- anyone can grow up to be President. It is a country of tolerance, and charity, and love. Love of country, love of family, love of freedom.

If we can come through these terrible times with that country intact, with those ideals still in place, with that kind of homeland for these children to grow up in, we will have defeated terrorism.

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