9/11 reminded America of its strength

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Dear Osama,
How have you been? How are the wives and kids?
I’m just writing to let you know that I still think of you often. Mostly when I take off my shoes.
That’s standard operating procedure over here at airports now, Osama. Can I call you Sammy?
Anyway, that’s just a routine part of life nowadays. You have to remove your footwear to go through the metal detectors. Nobody’s too happy about it except, I suspect, the people who make and sell socks.
It’s been two years this week since terrorists under your command crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside. And walking through security in stocking feet isn’t the half of it. Our lives have changed in a hundred other ways great and small. But we handle it, you know?
Heck, if you didn’t know better, if you were just taking a cursory glance, you might even think the events of Sept. 11, 2001, had never even happened, so completely do other things claim our attention.
People are obsessing on what date Ben and Jennifer — that’s two infidel entertainers who are quite popular over here — will get married.
We are following with morbid fascination the political circus currently unfolding in California. That’s our most infidel state.
And we’re hotly debating the case against Kobe Bryant; he’s an infidel basketball player who got into trouble with the law.
Many things on our mind, Sam. We haven’t forgotten about you, though. You, we will never forget.
Just the other day, I was watching “9/11,” a documentary aired last year by CBS, one of our infidel television networks. It made the wound raw all over again — brought back the planes, the confusion, the cloud of debris, the rain of bodies. The horror. I felt like crying, Sammy. I really did.
Last week, Newsweek — infidel newsmagazine — carried a report that placed you in the mountains of the Afghan province of Kunar. I found myself wondering why we couldn’t just drop leaflets warning everyone who was not you to leave the area — and then bomb the mountains flat. I’m sure there’s a solid reason we haven’t done that, but the point is, I’d never have said that two years ago.
Of course, two years ago was another country. Another time.
You awakened something in us, Sam. Something fierce and proud, deep and profound. You meant to shock us with the willingness of your followers to die and in that, you succeeded. But you also reminded us of our own willingness to live, brought back home to us the importance of honoring and protecting our traditions, our culture, our families, our towns, our freedoms. You made husbands rediscover wives, friends rediscover friendship, the faithful rediscover faith. You filled our streets and highways with flags.
Yes, you knocked us down, but in the process, you reminded us that we are the kind of people who will always find a way back up. And Sam, you can’t kill enough of us to change that.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not daring you to up the body count. I have great respect for your ability to slaughter. You did it two years ago, and I think most of us are resigned to the probability that eventually, you will do it again.
All I’m saying is that we’re going to keep coming, regardless. I don’t know, maybe it’s something we breathe in the air over here, something that seeps into us from the soil. But it’s real, Sam, an integral part of our character as a nation. Rent a copy of “Rocky” from your local Blockbuster; you’ll see what I mean. There is a toughness in us, Sam. A stubbornness that will not countenance defeat. When we are roused, we never give up. And few people in history have ever roused us like you.
Something to think about as you bed down in the cave tonight.
I’ve got to cut it short, Sam. Got to go out and buy myself some socks.
But take care of yourself, you hear? Don’t go dying of exposure or falling off any cliffs.
I hope to see you soon.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald