September 13, 2001
Early Tuesday morning, my wife and I stared dumbly at the television, mumbling words like hijacked, explosion, collapse. My daughter, 5, looked up from her cereal, confused and frustrated. What language are you speaking? she asked. They were words almost unspoken in American living rooms. But no longer.
Along with untold lives, Tuesday's terror attacks destroyed much that we cherish.
What we know has died is our sense of security, our feeling of confident invulner-ability from the violence that wracks others in faraway lands. It has all come home.
Reports of victims filter in; they do not yet flow. It's 10 p.m. on Tuesday, and we don't have an inkling of how crushed we will feel tomorrow, and next week, when the innocent faces behind the smoke and flames become known to us. Any hour now, we can expect to be even more devastated.
Those of us who follow the events in the Middle East can only be surprised by the enormity of the attack. Suicide missions have murdered and maimed Israeli civilians for years now. The weapon hasn't shifted -- only its aim. Such attacks are the end result of a process of cruel miseducation and propaganda, abetted by governments that provide shelter for terrorists and spew justifications for their murder. These terrorists, the governments that protect them, and the civilians who cheer them on, can only pray that America's retaliation is as targeted as Israel's has been.
For years, terrorism experts have been warning us that the danger to America lay not in conventional war, but in acts of terror. Their worst-case scenarios hardly measure up to what has happened, but it is a fair question for American citizens to wonder how its government failed in its primary responsibility: to protect its citizens. Now it must turn its failed defensive into a massive offensive.
Already, some people are suggesting that terrorists attacked America because of its support of Israel. Of course, we know this is not the case. Israel cannot be held responsible -- even indirectly -- for the recent desecration of our country. Because terror is not against Israel supporters. It is against democracy, against humanity.
That should have been obvious by now: The people who died Tuesday were Jews, Christians and Muslims. They were all colors, all creeds, rich and poor, and many different nationalities. It will take a similar coalition of peoples and nations to band together to extirpate these terrorists. America must lead the way. America may not be invulnerable, but it is hardly vanquished.
The Jewish community of Los Angeles, unfortunately, is familiar with coping with tragedy.
Many community centers and day schools took the brave and reassuring step of remaining open. Our focus, as a community, turned as if by reflex from feeling shock to giving aid and comfort. There is still much we can do: to get help, to give blood or to donate money, see our listings on page 14.
By Tuesday afternoon, synagogues throughout the Southland started to open their doors to congregants, offering a place for solace and communal prayer. Hundreds, if not thousands of Jews, chose to attend. They recited Psalms and heard prayers for peace. Some voiced demands for retribution. Most important, they had a place to go to share their grief and disbelief.
And come next week, Rosh Hashana 5762, they will have a place to return to, to pray for a sweeter year.