This article was written by an European author after seeing the entire world come together in the defense of the United States, shortly after the World Trade Center attacks. It was a shining example of how great America is that is the envy of every person around the world.
Oh, say, does that Star - Spangled Banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, it does, all week long, all across America and the World, the flag flew with pride and defiance. On trucks barreling down Los Angeles freeways, in the front yards and shop windows of the South and Midwest, tiny ones on countless shirts and lapels. A huge one on the wall of the stricken Pentagon. At Buckingham Palace in London, and American flag was unfurled outside the gates as the bank inside played "The Star Spangled Banner" on orders from Queen Elizabeth.
A Boston dockworker, hugging the trunk of a flagpole at an "interfaith vigil of prayer and solidarity" outside Boston's City Hall. In the face of the unspeakable carnage from last Tuesday's terror attack, American displayed a renewed spirit of togetherness.
Amid all the shock and grief, there welled up an even louder chorus of determination, a pledge to stand together in a moment of crisis. National character is an elusive and suspect notion, but Americans-at-most time carefree, pleasure-seeking and willfully independent-have a way of rallying in the face of tragedy. A Pearl Harbor, a Kennedy assassination, an Oklahoma City welds the nation together, not in numb paralysis but in fierce resolve. We are an undaunted people, and so we were last week. Everywhere, in acts large and small, people rallied to help.
Blood centers were overwhelmed by would-be donors, even though it sadly turned out that there was not that much demand for it in New York and Washington, in contrast to most disasters, here the injured were far outnumbered by the dead. E-mail networks sprang up in desperate efforts to find the missing. A round-robin message called on Americans everywhere to step outside and light a candle last Friday evening. Military-recruiting stations were jammed.
At Atlanta's Hartsfield airport, a Continental Airlines gate attendant looked out as thousands of passengers stranded when their flights were cancelled, and was touched by their plight, she called her friends asking them to bring vans to the airport and offer lodging to the weary strangers. She herself put up seven people in her Peachtree City home. "It was such a joy having these people here'" she said, "It got us all so busy, taking care and being together. It's that kind of strength that America is all about." A similar spirit of solidarity broke out abroad. All through Europe, bells tolled at noon on Friday for a three-minute period of silence. The soccer league postponed European Cup games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.
The Automobile Show in Frankfurt was cancelled. Top political leaders flocked to services of remembrance. In London, Prince Charles, was the first to sign a book of condolence outside the American Embassy. Margaret Thatcher signed, also, adding "Freedom, Justice and Democracy will prevail." Last week's attack was also the most deadly terrorist strike in British history, between 100 to 500 Britons are estimated to have died at the World Trade Center. The French brokerage firm, Carr Futures had 139 employees on the 92nd floor of the North Towers and as of Thursday, 74 had not been heard from. Thanks to globalization, the wars of terrorism knows no borders.
Dividing lines of all sorts vanished in the new sense of the civilized world at bay. Gone were complaints of United States "unilateralism", country after country pledged to stand together with America in hunting down the terrorists, and NATO for the first time in its history invoked Article 5, which states that an attack on any member will be construed as an attack on all. Gone was Washington's political sniping between Republican and Democrats; the congressional leaders of both parties held a joint meeting on the Capitol steps to pledge their support to President Bush, and then broke into a spontaneous chorus of "God Bless America." The famous Social Security lockbox, which had threatened to stymie the federal budgetary process this fall, was swiftly unlocked without serious protest, as Congress passed a $40 billion appropriation for disaster relief.
The crusade to root out terrorists, and punish those who harbor the, promises to be a long and shadowy effort, in which victories may not be easy to pinpoint or to celebrate. For George W. Bush, a critical part of the test he faces will be to channel the nation's spirit of defiance. This was not December 1941, when the enemy was clear and was declared.
The good news for the president is that he has unified the country behind him. Americans, too, face a test. First, they must absorb the obvious point that the enemy they face is not the Arab world, or Islam, or even all Islamic fundamentalists. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks there were scattered reports of taunting, even beatings or Arab-American children by schoolmates. Fortunately, they were overshadowed by more mature displays of compassion. A Muslim cleric joined priests, ministers, and rabbis at the National Cathedral service and two other Muslims helped lead Boston's vigil, which was attended by a number of Arab-Americans. Hossam Mohammad, a 30-year-old computer consultant from Egypt, e-mail friends, urging them to go. "I feel as if my own house is burning," he said, "Muslims have made a conscious decision to make America our home. We are part of the community as much as anyone else. We just hope to be part of the rebuilding."A far tougher test awaits those who have family or friends. The grim fact is that many of those killed in New York and Washington may never be found. The searing fire and the crushing collapse of the buildings have obliterated them without a trace. Last week saw a sad procession of supplicants going from hospital to hospital, seeking their loved ones among the injured. Walls and lampposts in downtown New York were pasted with pictures of the missing.
For their families, at least for the moment, these people live on in a limbo of desperate hope. But gradually, the survivors will have to make their peace with the fact that their husbands, sisters, or children lie in that dreadful, unresolved category, "presumed dead."
Grief and love, rage and vengefulness, pride and defiance-a volatile set of emotions was let loose in America last week.
They can be dangerous, but they can also be constructive. It hardly seems possible, or even fitting, to imagine that some good could come out of such horror. But the best memorial to those who perished would be the achievement of a safer, saner world.
And it is not out of reach.