I speak to you today as a New Yorker — I lived there 20+ years.
On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 I flew to New York LGA. I stopped to get Beanie Babies for my children, and then took a taxi that lovely September morning toward the World Trade Center. I needed to take the PATH train from WTC to Jersey City to get to my client.
I got close — I was about five short blocks away, walking, pulling my luggage — when the second plane roared by and crashed into the South Tower.
I had spent roughly 10 work years working in the WTC, but mostly walking from the WTC to a client office building in that area. I knew the WTC mall very, very well.
It was like they, the radical Islamic jihadists, bombed my living room. Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” I say, “I am a New Yorker.”
I do not know — well, no one knows very much about international affairs. Certainly it does not take a genius to figure out that war is hell, that anyone with any power has felt the necessity of doing hellish things and that humans make mistakes. It’s what always happens.
So, rightly to some degree, people have grievances. Is terrorism a way to get redress for grievances? NO! No. Is killing innocent people a way? NO! No.
Still, today I feel that I must forgive. It was wrong. It was very, very wrong, what they did. It was inhuman and savage and brutal and has no place in anything we would call civilization, but we must forgive and it is only this year that I have somehow been brought to this conclusion.
- Never forget those who have been victims of terrorism. We had some 3,000 then (and they wanted 50,000). We have many this year in America, but victims are in many countries — Canada, Britain and France come quickly to my mind — and there are many others. Never forget.
- Keep fighting the war on terrorism. It is, sadly by definition, an uncivilized brutal fight. Civilization must survive. ISIS, for example, must be clearly defeated.
- Maintain some rules. Try hard to avoid civilian casualties — not zero (which is never possible), but to minimize. Try to arrest rather than kill from a distance. Give them some measure of due process if possible. Show some degree of mercy. (I am very doubtful that releasing people from Gitmo is the right way to show mercy, but it might be right in a few cases.)
- I make no recommendation now on invasion of privacy in our own country. I am deeply troubled that it is happening in ways that have nothing to do with the war on terror. As to whether some invasions are justified to help the war on terror, this is not the time or place to opine on that.
- Forgive them. Forgive them because we are not perfect either. Do not say ‘oh, it was not a sin’ or ‘well, your sin was justified’ because it was not. Say ‘it was a sin, and I forgive.’ Forgiveness does not mean ‘no punishment.’ It means first that, while in becoming terrorists they lost their humanity yet we give their humanity back to them. We respect that they are human, and that while we are resolute, we will not lose our own heads and we will not be poisoned by hatred. If we have a chance, we will show some mercy. Nonetheless, we shall prevail.
There are some of you who may wish that I only spoke of ‘work issues,’ but sometimes non-work issues intrude upon work. Thank you for your indulgence today.