In post-9/11 world, living takes courage

September 09, 2002|by GINNY FITE

We are only days away from Sept. 11.

The date has power, comes with images, is attended by grief.

The process of public remembrance has already begun. For some of us, remembering has never stopped.

For those whose loved ones died in the attacks, grief has been a yearlong companion. The force of their anguish makes us weep. For many of us, miles away from Ground Zero, anger simmers just below the surface.

And yet we've gone on. We've gone to work, tended our gardens, built decks, stood at the gravesides of people who did not die in the fiery collisions of jets into buildings or plunged into the earth like a comet, but who died nonetheless and left us with an ache in our hearts.

If we wondered, on the morning of Sept. 12, how we would cope with terror, we know now. The evidence is in.


We go on. We type memos, we mow lawns, we lay bricks, we design pages, we calculate budgets, we write stories, we paint pictures, we plow fields, we build trucks.

All year long - because years are now marked for me a new way, Sept. 11 being the first of the year - I have witnessed the power of continuing.

Hundreds and hundreds of people have announced their intention to survive in small ways: Wedding, engagement and birth announcements; 60th anniversaries (my favorite); lectures and plays; re-enactments and fund-raisers. Thousands of events have been planned by thousands of people, moving us each day into the next one and delivering us - away from terror.

Make no mistake - this is not inertia, just doing the next thing because it's there. It takes courage to continue in the face of horror and heartache. It takes courage to say there will be a next day, for which plans are necessary, for which music will be made, for which audiences will be required.

It takes courage to say "I do." It takes courage to bring a new life into a world threatened with unpredictable terror. It takes courage even to say, "I have loved you for so long and I'm glad of it."

To take a stand for life is to stand against death and fear.

I've watched on television the faces of the firefighters and rescue workers at ground zero who are searching for remains - what is left after life is over.

This kind of heroism is not about running into an inferno to rescue those trapped there and being crushed to death by the weight of 100 stories of steel and concrete. This courage is about continuing, about going on, about facing the dread of finding the next item and treating each uncovered object with honor.

I salute them. Their continuing deeds honor their fallen brothers. Those who continued have taught me what it is to be strong.

Should the terror come here - and that field in Shanksville, Pa., could just as well have been Clear Spring, Md., or Kearneysville, W.Va. - do we have the courage to meet it?

In the Lifestyle section today we have a story by staff writer Kevin Clapp about preparations for a bioterrorism attack in this area. We are asking if it happens here, are we prepared?

Bioterrorism is a word my spell checker doesn't like. It's a new word, a compact delivery system signifying fear, just like vials of Ebola or sprays of smallpox spread by terrorists who seek to bring us down by fear. It is a new kind of warfare, one that targets civilians and leaves buildings standing.

But it is not the first kind of war to make us ill.

On Monday, in the Health section, staff writer Kate Coleman will tell you about the practice of medicine during the Civil War. In that bloody, gruesome conflict, dysentery was as lethal a weapon as bullets and bayonets.

I am proud of these two writers. For a year, they have continued to talk to people in our community, continued to listen to their stories, continued to ask questions and to write, not because they were oblivious to the events of 9/11, but because they are courageous.

Because they know that to win this war, life must go on.

Ginny Fite is Lifestyle editor at The Herald-Mail. You can contact her at 301-733-5131, extension 2340, or by e-mail at

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