Essay of Hope
This year will be recorded as the year of "9/11" when terrorists who hated us so much that they would give their own life to take ours, murdered thousands of innocent people and demolished our "Twin Towers." That began a war that has already destroyed hundreds of more lives and that will continue to be fought for years to come.
Now, three and a half months later, the sun still comes up every morning and leaves us every evening, people are back to work, going to the theatre, cheering at ball games and celebrating the holidays with traditional symbols -- wreaths, trees and bright colors; the colors showing a little more red, white and blue than usual.
Gradually, New York and the rest of the country are drifting back into normalcy: the way we always have after a great crisis, coming back to the here-and-now instead of clinging to the past or being fixated on the future.
But for some families the grieving continues: tears are shed amidst the carols and children's laughter...and in quiet corners at holiday parties.
For some, the anger is still great, especially after witnessing on television leaders of the legion of hate giddily enjoying the terrible devastation they had wrought.
And some -- particularly religious people -- continue to be tormented by a perplexing question. The same question asked over and over by millions of people after the Holocaust. The same question we ask when a child dies in a crib...without our knowing the cause.
"Why do these terrible things happen to good people?"
We read the Rabbi's book and other teachings by our churches and philosophers and still we are left anguished. Embarrassed perhaps, by our inability to understand the explanations of so many who are so much more learned than we.
Then, as we struggle to orient ourselves to the beginning of a whole new year, a lot of us conclude that with all of the sadness and confusion, one thing remains certain: the greatest treasure we have is the breath we are still able to draw. The life that is still ours -- however depleted, however scarred.
We tell ourselves: "Carpe diem...Sieze the day!"
That may mean a commitment to some grand purpose like ridding the world of poverty, repairing the universe. Or simply doing all those ordinary things we know are right and beautiful, but too often take for granted; making more of the family we've been blessed with; trying to patch up a quarrel with an old friend whom we miss; caring for the environment because it belongs to the generations still unborn; thinking harder about how to help people worse off than we are.
It's a sweet impulse: a familiar one too. We've felt it before. After we won the Second World War. Or when we discovered that a loved one had made a remarkable recovery from what we thought was going to be a fatal illness. Then after a while...we forgot...until the next crisis.
Maybe this time, we won't forget so soon.
* * *
Editor's Note: This essay was read by Governor Cuomo on the CBS Sunday Morning television program on December 30, 2001.