This morning will begin with silence, both organized and spontaneous. Whether we rise for the scheduled moments at 8:46 and 9:02 a.m. or at some later time, we will all begin the day in the same way:by visualizing where we were a year ago. Inevitably, those memories lead to stark images — frozen scenes of planes and skyscrapers, men and women blanketed in dust, candles lining the Women’s Table.
In our silence, we find time for contemplation and reflection. We mourn those who died simply because they worked in the wrong building or boarded the wrong flight, and we grieve with all those they left behind. But beyond our sorrow, we search for an understanding that still proves elusive, even a year after terrorists struck America.
“What makes this moment so terrible,” Yale President Richard Levin said on Cross Campus a year ago, “is that there remains so much uncertainty.”
We know far more today than we did when Levin spoke that warm September night. The nation has identified the perpetrators of the attacks and destroyed the regime that hosted them. We have conviction in our goals for the future. Terrorism must be eradicated; America must stay prepared.
And yet, the sense of uncertainty remains. Our objectives are clear, but the path to their attainment is less obvious.
We value security as never before, but we fear what we might lose in trying to guarantee it. We know we must chase down our enemies, but we worry about how to pursue them, and where the hunt might lead. And we feel a swell of pride in our nation, but we are unsure how best to act on it.
We have looked to history for guidance. In a way, Sept. 11, 2001, was “Another Pearl Harbor,” as the News’ headline read a year ago. The shock of the terrorist attacks shattered the nation’s sense of invulnerability, just as Japanese bombs did six decades before. But the planes that infamous day came from a nation and a military, while the jets of Sept. 11 were our own, stolen and turned against civilians by men without a country.
As last year’s attacks showed, terrorism is a profoundly personal threat. It presents something different, a new challenge, an uncertainty that our generation must now strive to overcome.
Our challenge is great, but we are fortunate. We live in the world’s freest nation and we attend one of its greatest universities. We have a better chance than most to find the answers to our questions, to put an end to some of the uncertainty.
We know that Sept. 11 was a turning point for our generation, but we don’t know where it has directed us. A year after the attacks, we return to Cross Campus and to the company of our friends and classmates. There will be pain, but also a renewed opportunity to contemplate the uncertain future.
Honoring the memory of Sept. 11 demands more than a moment of silence. It requires continued reflection on both our role in the nation and our nation’s place in the world. Without that, our generation may never find the focus it needs.