Published November/December 2001EDITOR'S NOTE Hope Amid the Horror By Marvin R. Shanken & Gordon Mott
The searing images of destruction at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have become indelible memories for all and a constant reminder of personal loss and pain for far too many. But amid the mind-numbing cascade of pictures of the unfathomable evil visited on this country, one stream of images showed humanity at its best. People helping people to survive, and go on.
In New York the firefighters and police raced into the doomed buildings, fearing for their lives but courageously walking into danger. Strangers stopped in the streets to help the wounded or to comfort the people simply paralyzed by fear. Hundreds of thousands jammed the streets and sidewalks, finding their way home on foot; along the way, people handed out water, offered their phones or a place to rest, and gave their time and resources to make sure everyone arrived at their destinations safely. Within hours, rescue workers, some trained, some not, and some from hundreds of miles away, descended on ground zero at the World Trade Center in a desperate but determined effort to save as many lives in the rubble as they could.
In the days that followed, demonstrations of solidarity took place, not only in America but around the world. The queen of England led a congregation at St. Paul's Cathedral in a rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." In nearly every European capital three minutes of silence were observed at an appointed hour that first Friday. Memorials with flowers or tributes to America sprang up in hundreds of cities. Our government received expressions of solidarity and sadness from allies and even countries that don't always share our worldview.
Many Americans received e-mails and phone calls from people abroad whom they have known over the years. A secretary in Japan called her former boss. A maid in Mexico spent four days trying to get through to the family she worked with for seven years. Cigarmakers in Latin America and winery owners in Europe took the time to place calls and send e-mails, wanting reassurance that we were OK, and to let us know they were thinking about us.
For most, it wasn't up close and personal, a friend or a relative missing in the debris. But the attack stole a piece of all our humanity, the tenuous link that binds us because we cling to the belief that people simply are not capable of evil acts of this magnitude. Each tragedy, whether it is man-made or natural, undermines our sense of security and erodes our faith in the future and, inevitably, our faith in others.
But whether a natural disaster or an act of war, the pouring out of our collective hearts begins the healing process. Our gestures of aid and our contributions to repair the damage are more than just single acts. They reaffirm our connection to the world around us -- we are all together on the same planet, and each person's fate is humanity's fate.
In that spirit, we would encourage you to help in any way you can -- we believe the best way is to contribute to one of the victims relief funds. Donations can be sent to the Twin Towers Fund, P.O. Box 26999, New York, NY, 10087-6999, www.twintowersfund.vista.com. Or go to www.cigaraficionado.com for a list of relief funds.
But there's another thought. It's time to start fighting the horrible notion that America is somehow the "beast" or the "head of the snake," as our enemies say. Nothing is further from the truth. Are we flawed as a nation? Yes. But our strengths are the strengths that give freedom and hope to billions of people on this earth. That message needs to be repeated, and believed by all of us.
The message contains an essential truth -- we are all part of a global community, striving to make this world a better place. It should give hope to all of us, even amid the horror.