"Oh, my God..." That's all I could say when I turned on my T.V. the morning of Tuesday, September 11th. There I saw the image of a lone tower of the World Trade center in New York City; it's twin having collapsed only moments before. My mother had awakened me to tell me that two jet airliners had struck the twin towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. It seemed that the United States was under attack from some unknown terrorist foe. On my couch I sat in shock and horror as the realization of it all began to come; this was not a movie, this was really happening. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces as I learned that there had been an untold number of people, including fire and policemen, inside that tower before it crumbled to the ground. "The second tower will surely fall," said the reporters on the T.V., now that there is nobody left to fight the fire still raging within. "Oh, my God," I said aloud again to my mother on the phone; it's all I could think to say, despite the fact that I am an atheist. I began to feel rage now as well, wishing to strike back at whoever had done this -- but who was it? Then it happened, the second tower collapsed, joining its twin. "Oh, my God," I said again, tears streaming down my face...

As the day wore on, I sat glued to my television, fearing that the horror was not yet over, anxious to find out who had done this. I saw the horrible images of the airplanes crashing into the two World Trade Center towers again and again and again, from every conceivable angle. With each new angle, a newfound grief rose up inside me. Then the stories of survival, and loss began to be told; stories of people aboard the hijacked airplanes calling their loved ones on cellphones to say goodbye. With each and every story, more new grief and tears.

Since then I have been almost paralyzed by my shock and grief. Despite the fact that I did not personally know anyone lost in the attacks I still felt personally traumatized. And I have wanted revenge. But against who?

Whoever they were, they define what evil is. I hate them. The hijackers directly responsible for this atrocity are all dead, and I wish I believed in a Hell where they will burn in anguish forever. But those hijackers could not have done this alone. Who is the terrorist organization responsible for this? I want them to pay for their crimes against humanity.

The news media almost immediately jumped to the conclusion that it could be none other than the favorite media scapegoat of the last 10 years, Osama bin Laden. They were therefore automatically assuming that this was a foreign attack. They made that assumption when the Federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed as well. But that heinous act was committed by an American citizen, a military veteran no less. Why does the media never allow for more than one possibility at a time?

Evidence has indeed begun to mount pointing a finger toward Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. If they are shown to be responsible, I believe they should be taken out swiftly. But I do not want to see any more innocent blood spilled!

The American President-by-accident G.W. Bush has used extremely strong language (rather unskillfully) in his addresses to the American people declaring a War on terrorism. Media pundits are all pounding their fists crying for military action, speaking of long drawn out conflicts costing more innocent lives. On the streets, people are saying such disturbing things as "bomb all those Arabs, nuke 'em all into oblivion." Arab-Americans, some of whom were also killed in the attacks, have become the targets of hate from other ethnic Americans. An Indian man was shot and killed in Arizona because he was mistaken for being Arabic. My own father, who is Mexican and a disabled veteran of the American army, has gotten angry glares from people on the street; apparently hate is so blind that all people with dark skin are now its targets. And the news media has the audacity to claim that America is united. Bullshit!

Has humanity learned nothing in thousands of years of tribal warfare? Hate begets hate. It's a viscous cycle. It can only be broken when we decide to stop hating and seeking revenge. Isn't peace and justice what we all really want? Then why don't we actively seek it out?

Terrorism is like a cancer on the human organism. Cells mutate and turn against the very organism from which they sprang. Think of those hijackers aboard those planes. There were families with children aboard all of those planes. They must have been so frightened. The hijackers had to have seen the terror in their eyes; perhaps they also overheard some of the cellphone calls to loved-ones. They knew that they were about to kill all of these people and countless others in the buildings that they were preparing to ram. No matter what their religious beliefs they must have felt something. That they carried out their dreadful missions anyway is a testament to their insanity. Their hatred transformed them into something monstrously inhuman -- like a cancer.

To fight a cancer you must cut out the mutant cells. This is how we should fight terrorism as well. But, with cancer the possibility that it will come back always remains unless the root causes are identified and a cure is developed. So too is it with terrorism.

Why did these people hate us so much? Why is the USA hated by so many in the world? G.W. Bush tells us that it is because they are evil and we are good, "They hate freedom," he tells us. What!? Nobody hates freedom, and nobody ever considers themselves to be evil. People hate either because something hateful has been done to them or because they have been taught to hate. The USA is not as good as the government and the media would have us believe. This nation was founded with the blood of genocide against the native inhabitants of the land, and on the backs of a vast population of African slaves. And we have not gotten much better, only the PR machine has gotten better. In World War II, when we were the supposed 'good guys', we interned our own American citizens who were of Japanese descent. We saturation bombed German cities killing thousands of innocent civilians. And let us not forget that we are the only nation in the history of the world to unleash the hellish fury of nuclear weapons on an enemy when we bombed two cities in Japan killing thousands of innocent civilians. Since then we have continued our own reign of terror with police actions, covert wars (in which we trained terrorists to fight guerrilla wars that killed many thousands of innocent civilians), and economic sanctions. Those sanctions have lead to the deaths of untold numbers of innocent civilians while the dictators that we have hoped to hurt by this remain in power. Let us also not forget that America's #1 most wanted, Osama bin Laden, is a monster of our own making. He was trained by our own CIA in terrorist tactics to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. A fact that has gone little noticed by the news media so far. America is hardly the 'good guy'.

Now, the American public is whipped up into a frenzy of hate and calling out for blood -- even against its own innocent citizens. They want us to bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age for harboring Osama bin Laden. But in case no one has noticed, they are already in the Stone Age. The country is in ruins after 20 years of occupation and civil war. What good will it do to bomb them? It won't get at bin Laden who is likely hiding away in some remote mountain cave. Sure, it may punish the Taliban for allowing bin Laden to live and operate in Afghanistan. But it will also end up killing innocent civilians who have nothing to do with any of this. They don't know bin Laden from Jack. Think of all the children in Afghanistan. Imagine their terror as US warplanes begin dropping bombs on them. Why do they deserve to die? No one deserves that; not us and not them.

If in our desire for revenge we strike out in hate and knowingly kill innocent civilians, we will become just as inhuman as those cancerous hijackers were. We will become the evil that we hate.

We should be allowed to have our feelings. We should be allowed to feel the shock, horror, anger, and grief after the horrible events of September 11th. But we should not allow those feelings to make us become the very evil that did this to us. We need to act with reason. We need to seek the truth. Let us not look for war and revenge. Instead, let us seek Peace and Justice.

-Bryan Méndez,
17 September, 2001