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It's a new world

I've come to a few conclusions. They're my opinions, of course, as almost everything you read on these pages is my opinion. But here are the several things I've crystallized.

They have awakened the sleeping giant

Much of the rest of the world has no idea what America is really all about, nor do they have any idea what Americans are willing to sacrifice in order to keep our way of life as intact as possible. And our way of life included, until yesterday, being fairly safe from attacks from extranational terrorists. We were attacked by internal terrorists; we handled it, we're handling it still.

When terrorists attack our embassies or our military in other parts of the world, we get angry, we want action taken, we want revenge. But generally, we forget about it soon after and go on about our business. That's not here, that's all the way on the other side of the world, and I have to go to work and today is Bobby's soccer game and Melissa's got swim practice and my husband is working late and I have other things to think about. And so we go on about our business.

But when terrorists from other nations take over our own planes with training they've received in our own country and turn them into missiles to destroy buildings with thousands of people in them, and try to take out the leader of our nation--when terrorists from other nations kill innocent men, women, and children in pursuit of their horrific martyrdom for their unholy causes--when terrorists from other nations come to our soil and kill our people on our land--we don't care what it takes. We don't care how long it takes. We won't care how many people we'll have to go through to get the ones responsible for this. We will do it.

And here's why I think they've awakened the sleeping giant. Since Vietnam, America has been overly-reluctant to lose soldiers in combat. Rather than lose any more Marines in Lebanon Reagan pulled them out after the barracks were bombed. Rather than lose any more American lives, George Bush stopped Desert Storm before we reached Baghdad, without killing Saddam Hussein--who lived to bankroll more terrorism in the succeeding decade. Since then, all we do is send in our cruise missiles and our bombers. We don't lose soldiers. Nope. Won't take the casualties.

But now--now America is beginning to remember that a soldier's job is, ultimately, to die in the defense of his nation. When they sign on the dotted line, they all know that they may someday be called to put their lives on the line for America. Now, Americans are regaining the willingness to sacrifice our sons and daughters for the greater good--so that we can all live here in the U.S. in the freedom to which we've been accustomed, and to the freedom for which we've struggled for more than two hundred years. Now, I believe, Americans are ready to understand that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, and vigilance includes sending our soldiers in to battle so that freedom can be maintained.

Our freedom to live and work and play in our own cities is at risk as long as there are terrorist cells sponsored by terrorist nations and nations that turn a blind eye to the harm that terrorists within their borders do. So we have remembered that we are the lone superpower. Who will gainsay us when we send our troops to Afghanistan to root out the evil that dwells in its mountains? And if while we're at it we destroy the Taliban, so be it. And if any other Arab dictatorship goes down in the meantime, so much the better.

They have no conception of what they've done. Americans are more than angry. They are energized. Now, we have a holy war. We can do our best to root out terrorists wherever they be, so when our sons and daughters come home from the war, they can get on a plane traveling coast-to-coast without fear of having it hijacked and turned into a missile.

They have awakened the sleeping giant. Now let them feel our power.

It's a small world

One thing I noticed in the aftermath of the attacks: Even though I live in one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the nation, it's still a very small world. Everyone here knows someone, or knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who has a story to tell about the World Trade Center destruction. Everyone. Whether it's the upstairs neighbor who was on the PATH train on his way to the WTC at 8:45 because he always oversleeps, and so who was not in the building when the first plane struck, or the coworker whose husband is an emergency worker who got called in last night to bring in search-and-rescue dogs, or the coworker whose cousin was there but got out all right, or the coworker whose wife was at a meeting in the building right next door when the first plane hit, or a thousand other stories like that.

Montclair has become more and more almost an outpost of New York. We have many ex-New Yorkers living here. Many Montclair residents work in the City, as we call it. I worked in the City several times, on and off for a period of about five years. I loved it. I interviewed for jobs in the WTC. I never really wanted to work there, as it's one hell of a commute, but I've been there more than once, and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that that enormous, teeming center of finance is gone.

More than that, though, is the skyline. When you grow up in this area, the New York City skyline becomes a part of your subconscious. Every major road in the area has at least one place where you get a spectacular view of the skyline. I take my out-of-town guests to Eagle Rock Reservation, where George Washington watched the British Army during his retreat from New York, and point out the buildings to them. "There, you can see the Empire State Building, and you see that one near it with the shiny top and the neat art deco design? That's the Chrysler Building. And there, to the right, of course, is the World Trade Center." You never have to describe it, as those twin towers are--no, were--icons of the New York skyline. I never really liked them. Long, tall boxes with no style. Ugly, I used to say.

And yet, I cannot comprehend that when I go up to Eagle Rock Reservation the next time, those ugly twin towers won't be there.

The best of times, the worst of times

In the dust and smoke, in the flames and horror, in the twisted metal and the screaming, bloody victims, we can still find stories to lift our hearts.

Medical and emergency teams from all over the area rushed to New York to help. A corporal from Vermont drove down on his own time to aid in the chaos. New Yorkers responded to the desperate call for blood in such numbers that the medical personnel were able to tell all but those with O blood types to go home and come back in a couple of days.

Complete strangers ask each other how they're doing. And New Yorkers prove that, in spite of their image, they are always there for their neighbors. Which those of us who live around here always knew.

We New York/Metro area people know that the rest of the country tends to get a bit annoyed (to say the least) about our attitude, but we know, and you know, that what it all comes down to is this: we are, after all, one big American family. We stick together. As we say around here: You wanna make somethin' out of it?--MAY