On September 11, 2001, I wrote a letter about the attacks Al Qaeda, and its leader Osama bin Laden, carried out on the United States. An excerpt of that letter was taken off the Internet and appeared in a book put out by Beliefnet, along with the writings of many clergymen and women far more wise than I am.
Earlier this evening, I listened as President Obama announced the news that the man behind the terrorist organization responsible for these attacks had been found, and that he had been killed. And afterward, I watched as people began to gather around the White House, and around Ground Zero, and all over the Internet, to discuss the news.
Legend has it that Mark Twain once said "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." Many people will feel that way this evening; the media has been photographing them celebrating all over the world since the news was released. Others, on the other side of the conflict, might mourn. Still others might find themselves in the place that I am, quiet, thoughtful, wondering if one life makes up for the hundreds of thousands lost while he was searched for. And then one even wonders if that is a valid way of thinking. Can one count human beings like apples or stones? What is a life worth?
I went back to the shrine, that shrine I talked about in my 2001 letter, though now it is in another room in another building in another town. Yet the feeling, and the sound, was the same. One death will not bring all those he killed back to life. One death will not atone, cannot atone, for all the pain and suffering terrorism has brought to the world. A chapter has ended, but the book of evil is still being written. There is no gaining back what was lost on September 11, 2001, nor anything that happened between that day and today.
There is only what we choose to do now. And I will pray that what we choose to do makes the world a better place. I can do no more.