Comfort comes from honor, faith, being human

, Opinion Page Editor

I've never been to New York City. I've never been to Washington, D.C., either. I've never even been to rural Pennsylvania.

I haven't flown in well over a year. I probably won't take another transcontinental flight as long as I live. I'll take multiple-legged journeys and have long layovers.

I thought I'd have nothing to say about Sept. 11 - nothing that every other journalist, writer, scholar or poet isn't already saying.

A year is just not enough. We still haven't made sense of it all. In many ways, we're still reeling.

Reports that Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remain unknown only serve to keep retribution and justice out of reach.

Taunting videos continue to mysteriously surface on the Al-Jazeera network - a network that remains in operation, gleefully serving as bin Laden's window to the world and leaving international journalists and military intelligence scratching their heads.

Al-Jazeera would be the first thing I'd shut down, just to keep those jackals off the airwaves.

Accounts of victims' families and of last goodbyes over crackling phones permeate the media in this time of renewed sadness. The humanity of each victim, family member or hero is honored, mainly because that is the only comfort in this confusing mess.

One year later, these zealots remain out there. One year later, they still want to exterminate as many of us as they can. We haven't come to terms with the first wave - how can we handle another?

Come to terms with these things in a year:

See an explosion replayed over and over and know that the silence on the other end of the phone - the phone you can't hang up - means forever.

Be one of the hundreds of rescue workers to find people in the twisted steel and broken concrete - none of them alive.

Hope to find survivors, only to face the realization that there are none as precious hours - and hope - slip away.

Look back on that dead run from lower Manhattan and realize that the acrid, falling ash contained victims.

Break the news to children who will never see their parents again.

I could live to be a thousand and not have to see another picture or another camera angle or another replay of the attacks. The ash, the jumpers and the fleeing masses are burned into our minds forever, at the highest possible resolution.

We'll carry those memories for the rest of our days, no matter where we were, how we found out or what we did for comfort.

Today, we can remember 2,730 feet of steel collapsing better than we can remember the lyrics to "God Bless America." Has our patriotism faded, like the yellowed newspaper flags have faded in our windows?

The anger and the sadness still burn within us, and we continue to ask, "Why?"

As silence tests our faith, comfort is as elusive as bin Laden himself. As long as he continues to roam free, unpunished, will we feel justice?

I thought I'd have nothing to say that hasn't been said already - then I realized that's not a bad thing.

Today, I'd just rather be human.

Write to John at


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