September 11, 2002
By Robert M. Berdahl
University of California, Berkeley
We gather today to mourn and to remember the nearly three thousand people who perished in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania one year ago. Those who died represented each of us, for they came from every walk of life. They were stock brokers and bond traders, busboys and clerks, maintenance workers and accountants. They were pilots, flight attendants, business travelers, families on holiday. They were military and civilians working in the Pentagon. Many, as we know, were police officers and fire fighters. Many were heroes, including some of our own alumni, who died saving others. Some sacrificed themselves to prevent yet another airplane from being turned into a missile. Some were able to speak with loved ones before they died; others had no chance to bid farewell.
Most of those who died, but by no means all, were Americans. People from all nations have mourned in many languages. People of all races and of every religion were murdered on that day. Like each of us, they were people with hopes and dreams and plans for their lives. They were the human family.
On that fateful day, they died horribly and senselessly, victims of men consumed by hatred and warped by homicidal political ideology or unbridled religious fanaticism. The victims of September 11 did nothing to bring death upon themselves. They died in a savage assault on the symbols of America.
We gather today to mourn and to remember. We mourn their deaths today because something in each of us died that day. We mourn because our human family is diminished by their deaths. We mourn them because they were innocent victims whose terrible deaths cannot be justified -- in any way, by any twisted logic, or by any demented rationalization. We mourn them because we mourn for our world, for we know that the attacks that caused their deaths have unleashed the "blood dimmed tide" of war and that "everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned." We mourn them because we are patriots who know that our liberties, bought at so dear a price over more than two centuries of struggle, must be safeguarded against diabolical attacks from without and reckless zeal from within.
We gather today to mourn and to remember. We remember the victims of September 11, not only because we offer respect to persons taken from us so violently, but because by remembering them we remind ourselves of how precious life is. By remembering them we remind ourselves that we are part of a human community in which each life is of equal value in the eyes of God. By remembering them, we remind ourselves of who we are and what we stand for as a nation -- that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are not merely rights we claim as Americans, but are rights inherent in each human being on this fragile planet.
There is nothing more patriotic than to mourn and to remember in this way. Some would measure our patriotism by how often or how loudly we sing the national anthem or where we fly our flag. The true measure our patriotism is how well we preserve the liberties of the republic for which our flag stands. Our patriotism is to be measured by whether we remember that while we pray to live under God's blessing, we also stand under God's judgment. Our patriotism is to be measured by whether we seek freedom and justice for ourselves alone or whether we seek freedom and justice for all.
Fiat Lux. Let there be light. Fiat Pax. Let there be peace.