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The Attacks Have Awakened a 'Sleeping Giant'

The Attacks Have Awakened a 'Sleeping Giant'

Remarks at ecumenical service to remember the victims of September 11, delivered by Ambassador David T. Johnson to the International Chapel, Vienna, September 16, 2001. Source: Washington File (EUR514), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C.

The head of the U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ambassador David T. Johnson, delivered the following remarks at an ecumenical service, to the International Chapel for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States. Vienna, September 16, 2001. (Transcript)

United States Mission to the OSCE

Many Americans here, in one way or another, have come to Vienna to represent the United States, its power, its majesty, and its dignity, some of us for the American people, as representatives of their government, others for international organizations and companies. Some of us have come to Vienna for family or educational reasons. Others here tonight are America's friends in this time of grief. For as German Chancellor Schroeder said earlier this week, recalling America's solidarity with Berlin when the Wall was built - "Now, we are all Americans."

Tonight, we are part of the family of America. We meet here, like millions who have met on Friday and since then, to assure the children, parents, spouses, families and friends of the lost that they are not alone. All Americans share their grief and their loss.

But we are also here, admittedly, for ourselves. For we, too, need to be together now, to be comforted as well to comfort. To reassure ourselves, as Saint Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God. . ."

From this week forward, September 11 will be remembered as a dark day in America's history. The American people, our institutions, our symbols, and even our idea of a free society were attacked by evil. We were attacked not for what we did or did not do, but for who we are - a free, open society and what we believe, that freedom is the birthright of all humanity.

While we saw evil visit our country Tuesday, we also saw America at its best. Firefighters, police officers, soldiers, civil servants, and plain, ordinary folks ran into the jaws of death to save others. New York alone may have lost 300 firefighters. And while it is indeed gut wrenching, we are all ennobled by the thought that the aircraft over Pennsylvania may have been brought down by its own passengers in their quest to avoid becoming part of an even larger tragedy.

In this hour of darkness, we must remind ourselves that America is a nation of religious freedom, with room for the non-believer and for believers of all kinds. And we must also remind ourselves that the tragedies of September 11 were not the acts of religious zealots, but the acts of savages. Islam is no more connected to this barbarity than is Christianity to Nazism.

While we mourn today, and will for days to come, we also know that the time will soon come to confront this evil that has attacked us. We look to our friends worldwide to join us in this struggle. This will be a war in which there can be no neutrality - You are either for terrorism or you are against it; there can be no middle ground.

In that fight, we will, more than ever, need divine guidance, and look to the words of David's Psalm: "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight. My goodness, and my fortress, my high tower, and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I trust."

Commentators this week have drawn attention to the fact that more Americans died on their own soil on September 11 than on any single day since the end of the Civil War. The pain is great for all of us and we are seeking a way to look past it and to a brighter future.

I found the reasons for being able to do that - to look to the future - best expressed this weekend in an unlikely place, the back page of the Weekend Herald Tribune's Dave Barry column. Where one normally looks for humor, I found this wisdom:

"The TV commentators keep saying that the attacks have awakened a 'sleeping giant.' And I guess we do look like a giant, to the rest of the world. But when I look around, I don't see a giant: I see millions of individuals - the resilient and caring citizens of New York and Washington; the incredibly brave firefighters, police officers and rescue workers risking their lives in the dust and flames; the politicians standing on the steps of the Capitol and singing an off-key rendition of "God Bless America" that, corny as it was, had me weeping; the reporters and photographers who have not slept, and will not sleep, as long as there is news to report; the people in my community, and communities across America, lining up to give blood, wishing they could do more.

"No, I don't see a giant. What I see is Americans. We may have the power of a giant, but we also have the heart of a good and generous people, and we will get through this. We will grieve for our dead, and tend to our wounded, and repair the damage, and tighten our security, and put our planes back in the air.

"Eventually most of us, the ones lucky enough not to have lost somebody, will resume our lives. Some day, our country will track down the rest of the monsters behind this, and make them pay, and I suppose that will make most of us feel a little better. But revenge and hatred won't be why we'll go on. We'll go on because we know this is a good country, a country worth keeping. Those who would destroy it only make us see more clearly how precious it is."

(end transcript)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).