To paraphrase a friend of mine: The speech was great – now, do it! People have greatness thrown upon them, and George Bush, in his speech to Congress, the American people and the world, rose to the occasion.
He was calm, measured, tough, sincere and intense. He took the time necessary to lay the groundwork and minced no words. You are with us or against us. No more, no less. His words left no doubt as to the resolve of this government and indeed, the American people.
I could not help but notice the face behind the words. He had a kindness when necessary but what was critical was the toughness. This is a not a man to be trifled with. This is a man who means what he says. You don’t mess with this man.
This is a man of the West. A Texan. A person who can be soft and emotional but who has standards and holds to them. This is a man who knows when there is a job to be done and plans to do it. This is a man who doesn’t get sidetracked from the purpose and the goal. This is a man for the moment.
The thought flashed through my mind as I watched the speech that his eyes reminded me of Clint Eastwood in those movies of righteousness. Tough and knowing. Intense and determined. The eyes of a human being who knows that things must be done which are not necessarily what we want but which must come to pass because of a greater good. These were the eyes of a man who will not be deterred from the challenge. This is a man you want on your side and America is all the greater for it.
President Bush did not promise us utopia as politicians usually do. He didn’t tell us what we “wanted” to hear; he told us the truth. How refreshing – honesty from a politician.
He told us the battle would be intense and long. We have been challenged to be among the warriors – that it is not only up to the military to get the job done. We are all in this together and we must each pull our own weight. Whether that means going about our lives, caring for our families and loving our children or keeping an eye peeled for the dangers around us – we have been challenged.
The president knows we can do it and that in itself is encouraging. For so long, politicians have treated the American people as needy and weak. We have been treated as though we cannot survive or exist without the support and help of the government. Too often and for too long, the American people have been demeaned by the very people we elected. What an insult. Sept. 11, 2001, is the day that changed.
From the first instance, the feeling from this administration has been that the American people are strong and can meet the challenge and indeed, if this country is to survive, we must. That is empowering for all of us who may have doubted where the country was heading
It also gave to all of us a feeling that we are important for the future of the country. For too long too many of us have felt that things were careening along and we had lost control. In a sense, we had. Government was too big and too in control and we were just cogs in the wheel.
Under this president and in the circumstances of national horror, we have seen and know that we are not cogs.
We are the wheel.
Without us – the man on the street, the average citizen – the country is nothing. We have proven ourselves with our immediate reaction to the terrorism.
If we needed any more proof of that, you need only look at the response of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He was there from the first moment and has remained there. He moved easily from the mix of politicians to the people and he was with the people. And they know it. Rudy is there for them, he loves them and supports them. Rudy is one of them. He is a true New Yorker and represents the very best of that city and its noble people. He has proven it and so have they. And it isn’t over.
There aren’t enough words to describe my feeling and emotions as I watch and read about the real heroism and dedication of those involved in the rescue searches in New York City. As a native of that place, I am proud to have a connection. New Yorkers have been portrayed as rude and uncaring. Never again. The love and dedication of their efforts to rescue the thousands of victims is almost unparalleled. That 300 firefighters lost their lives in the effort speaks for itself. When people were escaping the doomed buildings in terror, those men went in. I can’t forget the response of one of them to a reporter who questioned with incredulity, that they went into the burning building. He answered with a tone of how stupid can you be – “It’s our job.” And they did it bravely, continually and without question. The applause of New Yorkers who lined the streets reflect that the people know.
Yes, we know. Not only New Yorkers, but all of us. We are united in tragedy and will do the right thing. Just as the heroic passengers on the United Airlines Flight 93 over Pennsylvania did. They were also doomed but rose to the occasion and tried to do something. They did. They stopped that plane from completing its original deadly intent. Everyone on board was killed, but in their deaths, they saved the lives of unknown hundreds of others. If we ever doubted the heroism of Americans, we cannot any longer.
The last words heard by cell phone from that flight were those of 32-year-old Todd Beamer, who had spent the last 15 minutes of life talking to a GTE air phone operator telling of the hijacking. He said that he and some others were going to do something. He asked the operator to call his pregnant wife and family to tell them he loved them. He then prayed the Lord’s Prayer with the operator.
His last words, directed at someone else were “Are you ready? Let’s roll!”
He said, “Let’s roll!”
And the phone went dead.
We are the wheel of the survival of this country. In honor of Todd Beamer and all the other brave people on those planes, let’s roll! We have been challenged. We cannot refuse. We must not, if for no other reason than to honor the more than 6,000-and-counting innocent dead.