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Profile 2002: The Fabric of America

By Staff
Dec. 2, 2001
About this time every year, The Meridian Star begins planning the annual "Profile" edition.
In the newsroom, the first step is an essay about its theme for the newspaper's employees the reporters, editors, advertising representatives, pressmen and newspaper carriers who will be involved in promoting the edition.
That's not enough anymore, because The Meridian Star has changed the way it thinks about Profile editions.
It started last year, when we asked ourselves, "What would happen if we invited readers to tell their own stories? If we stopped talking about 'reader ownership' and made it happen?"
The result was "Profile 2001: By the People," which included 150 reader bylines and 350 responses to survey questions.
It was a pleasure to read, and has intrigued editors from all over the country. Anytime we go to a industry seminar, people from other newspapers want to hear how we did it. The answer is easy: We stopped talking for one second and let somebody else have a chance.
To our knowledge, no other newspaper in the country has ever published anything like last year's "By the People" edition.
We are continuing the tradition this year, with "Profile 2002: The Fabric of America." It's not about Sept. 11, it's about what happened next.
The terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington changed us and this year's Profile will reflect that. It's about the fabric of our country, the large things and the small, that bind us together as families, communities, towns. It's about what makes us different from any other nation in the world.
We hope you will contribute this year, and we've re-printed this year's theme essay to give you a better idea what we're thinking.
"Profile 2002: The Fabric of America" will be published at the end of February but its seven sections will be printed ahead of time. I will write a little more about each section over the course of the coming week, and I'll give you an idea of when we need your stories.
Call me if you have questions, or want to talk about your story idea. Submissions can be made by e-mail at, or by regular mail at:
The Meridian Star/Profile 2002
P.O. Box 1591
Meridian, MS 39302
Attn: Suzanne Monk
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at
What the edition is about
This is the year everything changed. When thousands died on American soil in terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, dwarfing the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City previously thought to be the worst thing that could ever happen here.
But as horrifying as they were, the Sept. 11 attacks united the people and brought back the national spirit we always knew was there.
Still there.
The flag of the United States of America became more than an abstraction standing in the corners of classrooms and council chambers. It became a symbol of the living fabric of the country  uniting, inspiring, tying our lives together.
Cynicism was out. Giving blood was in.
Old-time patriotism made a comeback and the country became at one time larger, as the eagle took wing and stalked the enemies of freedom, and smaller, as our similarities became more important than our differences.
New York was everybody's hometown and Rudolph Guiliani, an outspoken city-dweller none of us knew, became the de-facto mayor of the United States. The man who won the presidency by the narrowest margin in U.S. history stepped up to the podium, and up to the plate, to deliver a challenge to terrorists and those who would shelter them.
Our friends came forward. Messages of condolence and promises of military support were received from all over the world.
We cried when the queen of England caused the U.S. national anthem to be played during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and knighted Guiliani. We saw Prime Minister Tony Blair, a reserved Englishman, become passionate in our defense.
"We the British are a people that stand by our friends in time of need, trial and tragedy, and we do so without hesitation now," Blair said.
As we watched President Jacques Chirac tour Ground Zero, the first foreign head of state to do so, we remembered that it was the French who gave us the Statue of Liberty. And we dredged up fifth-grade social studies lessons to remember the inscription on her tablet:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
We are true believers and in the days and weeks that followed Sept. 11, we re-discovered our national identity long obscured in the detritus of sweeps week, fast food and pop icons.
We became deliberate citizens. We sheltered under the living fabric of America, wove new bonds, became neighbors, redefined our place in the melting pot and found new pride in the world's most powerful democracy.
We are Americans, and there's never been anything like us. These are our stories about who we are.