In my own words…
Life as usual shattered by terrorism
Sept. 16, 2001
Like most of you my week started with business and life as usual meeting with staff, working economic issues and after a late conference call, I returned to the security of my home and family.
That evening I packed for a flight to Washington, D.C., scheduled to leave the next afternoon. My wife, Kelly, and I discussed our schedules for the rest of the week and our plans for a weekend together.
Tuesday morning the detailed schedules and frenzied planning of our lives seemed suddenly less important.
An unthinkable horror planned by madmen had ripped at the very heart of our largest city and nation's capital.
We stood transfixed before television screens, assaulting our eyes with images of death and suffering.
As we watched, we didn't know the names or faces of those touched by this tragedy, but like you, I felt a profound sense of sorrow and despair to the depth of my soul.
Like you, I felt a sudden urge to draw those I hold dear closer, and I reached for a phone just to hear their voices or draw them near just to feel the touch of their hand.
Our ordinary lives were somehow more precious and far more fragile than they had been just moments before.
For those of my generation, it was much like the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated our worlds just simply stopped.
As we were drawn to gather with our families, so we were drawn then to gather with others, first within our workplace and then within our churches, seeking the shared comfort of one another's spirit.
We were drawn to grieve, to mourn and to pray pray for strength and renewal of our hope.
When I returned home Tuesday evening, the very sights and smells of that secure place were far more real and treasured than they had been earlier that day.
We often forget that we are spiritual beings, created by God and endowed with the very breath of God Himself. As spiritual beings we are connected one to another.
I've thought often of John Donne's Meditation 17:
Every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main …
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee."
This week, we have realized in spite of our differences, we are truly one people, one family with one common future.
I have watched as we have gathered black, white, young, old, rich and poor alike. We have looked deep into one another's eyes, past our outer skins and seen the human spirit within.
This tragedy was no respecter of gender, race, social standing or nationality. This was a crime against the human spirit.
I have seen the human spirit of the people of Meridian triumph in the many small acts of
caring firemen and steel workers who have volunteered to travel to New York, children
who have sent hand-made cards to those who have suffered, the spontaneous display of our nation's symbol, the American flag, on porches across our city and county and those collecting socks for the tired feet of the rescuers many miles away.
We live in a safe, secure city, miles away from the terrors inflicted upon our fellow Americans, and yet we have been moved and forever changed.
I, personally, have thought of Mayor Giuliani many times this week and wondered how he bears the sorrow and burden of his office. I pray for him.
I have witnessed the death of police and fire personnel and know full well that our own would answer the same call. I pray for them.
But I also know that our world is still controlled by the loving hand of an all-powerful God. And I realize that the very spirit that allows us to feel another's pain, also allows us as a people to heal, to find strength and courage and to restore our hope.
This country was founded by brave men and women who shared a simple need to worship their God in freedom.
This faith of our founding fathers, this resilient American spirit ensures that this nation these United States this People will not merely endure. We shall prevail.
God Bless America.
John Robert Smith is mayor of the city of Meridian.