The independent news organization of Duke University


America never saw what really happened on Sept. 11.

Most people never saw the severed limbs or the charred corpses. They never saw the dozens of people forced onto the edges of small office windows by suffocating smoke and fire. They didn't see person after person leap from those windows to escape slow, burning torture. They didn't see stretches of concrete where those mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses, sons and daughters were reduced to piles of flesh. And they have no idea that a staggering 200 people were forced into this inhuman fate.

Most people don't know the stories of people like Harry Waizer, who was sprayed with searing sparks and jet fuel as he rode in an elevator and nearly burned alive. They haven't heard the tape of flight attendant Betty Ong, as she reports to an airline control center the stabbing of passengers in the front of her plane. They don't know that as people evacuated the North Tower, the glass walls and revolving door leading to the mezzanine were covered with the blood of victims.

Most people haven't heard the 911 call of Melissa Doi, trapped in the South Tower, describing the brutal heat and smoke slowly killing her and the four others in her office, asking the operator if she was going to die then realizing that she would. They haven't heard the dying words of Kevin Cosgrove, worried about his wife and children, screaming out as his tower collapses. They haven't heard the stories of the people who battled for their lives to escape from the towers or the hundreds of brave heroes who made the supreme sacrifice to save the lives of others.

They don't know about people like beloved FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge, who rushed to the towers after the attack to offer prayer, comfort and to deliver firefighters' last rites, killed by flying debris as he stood in North Tower lobby.

They know the numbers, but not the stories. They know the tragedy but not the horror.

What we've seen has been censored. What we've heard has been filtered. What we've read has been sanitized.

Nobody wants to view or hear or read such carnage and devastation. But after several weeks of immersing myself in Sept. 11, I believe it's something that every one of us ought to force ourselves to do.

You might lose sleep. You might become ill. You might shed some tears.

But you'll also start asking crucial questions with more urgency. Why aren't our airports, borders or ports secure? Why have not the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission been implemented? Why are there 3,000,000 people in the United States who have overstayed their visas? Why isn't the murder of 3,000 people enough to shake us out of our apathy?

Maybe, if more people researched the true story of Sept. 11, in all its horror, it won't take another attack, and more untold devastation, to motivate us to fix the perilous status quo.

This has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat, right or left. This shouldn't be political. We can disagree on how best to fight terrorism and keep our country safe, but we cannot disagree that we need to do both.

Does anyone seriously believe that with our porous, undermanned, underfunded domestic security we can really hope to prevent the release of a WMD on our soil once terrorists get their hands on the necessary materials?

Does anyone seriously believe that with our porous, undermanned, politically correct domestic security we can really hope to prevent the release of a WMD on our soil once terrorists get their hands on the necessary materials?

Since most of us, myself certainly included, have never witnessed the horror and suffering of a major terrorist attack, it's hard to fathom the level of torment and agony these acts of murder inflict. The numbers of dead simply don't tell the story.

Not the terrifying final moments before execution, or the horrific, debilitating injuries of the wounded. Not the memories of such hopeful, loving, loved people whose lives were brought to such a brutal, unjust, sickening end. Not the courage, dignity and heroism of so many everyday people who put their own lives in jeopardy to help others survive and escape. Not the faces of the grieving families as they mourn and remember the loss of those who made their lives such a joy.

So we lie to ourselves.

We criticize our concerned officials for fear-mongering. We oppose common-sense security measures. We give driver's licenses to illegal aliens. Meanwhile our enemy yearns to attack with all the force of Sept. 11 multiplied a hundred times. What will it take for us to understand?

As we stop today to mourn the dead, honor their memory and pay tribute to our heroes, let each of us also consider how our complacency allowed an attack on the same building the terrorists tried to blow up eight years prior. And let those tragic deaths be all the motivation we ever need to fight terrorism and keep our nation safe.

God help us if we don't.

Stephen Miller is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.


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