Tell Them What You Saw

My dear children,

I still remember the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was a little boy and was afraid there might be a nuclear war. Would the President do the right thing? Would my father have to enlist? Should I go to the basement if bombs started falling?

I also remember that in those frightening days, my parents told me how they felt on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. They were a little older than I was at the time of the missile crisis, but they were afraid. And shocked. And angry. My father did serve with honor in World War II, a war fought to end the breed of senseless horror that you have been watching on television.

Years from now, much to my regret, you will tell your children and grandchildren what you felt like on Sept. 11, 2001. You'll describe the images of hijacked planes crashing into buildings, the flames, the incredibly senseless loss of life.

Who could blame you if you tell your families of the fear, anger and shock you felt? How could you possible feel otherwise?

But I pray that you'll also remember that there was hope to be felt. There were many examples of the undying good that humans can do with the courage and grace of God. A tiny sample:

E I had an appointment this morning at the local blood center to give platelets. But there were so many people in the office to give blood to help the disaster victims that the nurse asked me to come back in a couple days. People were waiting up to three hours to give blood.

E The mayor of New York was on television last night to thank everyone who had come to help in the disaster relief effort. And he said there were so many volunteers that they didn't need any more people.

E The President gave a strong and reassuring talk to the American people. He asked for God's blessing on our nation.

E Members of Congress of all political parties gathered on the Capitol steps and sang God Bless America.

There were countless acts of heroic bravery as police officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians and other rescue workers plunged into the rubble in search of survivors — and worked to recover the mangled bodies of those killed in the attacks.

People rushed to help each other in every manner of terrifying circumstance.

Expressions of sympathy come to our president from around the world — with many nations declaring days of morning for those who perished. In many world capitals, flags flew at half-staff, and common people piled flowers on the steps of U.S. embassies.

Churches held special prayers services. And the adoration chapel at Sacred Heart Parish near our home was full of people of all ages, engaged in fervent prayer.

The toughest and most hard-nosed television news reporters were obviously shocked and willingly shared their dismay at what had happened. Moist eyes and shaky voices became common.

Despite everything, life went on. Whatever the national or ethic origin of the terrorists, they don't represent their nation or the brethren. They are an aberrant group of lost souls who need our prayers.

When you tell my descendents about this terrible event, you surely must convey the fear, anger, and shock. But don't forget to tell the stories of the heroes. Don't forget the common American men, women and children who stepped forward in Christian love, hope and charity.

Love, Dad September 12, 2001

Jim Fair is a freelance writer in Chicago.