Sometimes death comes in the dark, in the dead of night. But not this time. This time the day could not have been brighter or more beautiful.
Sometimes death comes when we are by ourselves. But not this time. This time it came to those who were surrounded by friends and colleagues.
Sometimes death comes on a battlefield or in a prison cell. But not this time. This time it came in commercial airplanes and pleasant office buildings.
And sometimes death comes after a long struggle and much anticipation. But not this time. This time it came in an instant. And it appears to have swept in its wake family members of our staff and volunteers, friends of members of our Board and doubtless a good many Amnesty International members themselves.
Now that it has, you and I have work to do. Not the kind of work that sorts through rubble or loads up body bags, thank God. Those who do that work deserve a thousand tears of gratitude. Our work is of a different order but just as important nonetheless. The work of anger, to be sure, but an anger tempered by wisdom. The work of grieving, absolutely, but a grieving that pays homage to suffering. And the work of justice, no question about it, but a justice of which every one of us can be proud.
To get to grieving, we must go through anger. And to get to justice, we must go through grieving. Because, as the theologian Sam Keen so eloquently put it, "Every day we are not mourning is a day we will be taking vengeance" and vengeance is different from justice.
Those who died on September 11 represent the best that is in us as human beings, as citizens and as a people. The best that is in us knows that individuals are responsible for this crime -- not anonymous masses of people. The best that is in us knows that the guilty deserve to be punished -- not those who share their names or their language, their skin color or their religion. It knows that blind hatred corrupts the hater. It knows that the greatest power evil has is to entice the innocent to mimic its practices. It knows that every action has unintended consequences. It knows that the truly strong never forget that in the heart of every stranger lurks a reflection of our own.
Those who died on September 11 represent the best that is in us, the calling of our highest selves. We owe them anger; we owe them grieving; we owe them justice. But everything that we do now must reflect the best, not the lowest, of our humanity. We pay those precious souls their rightful tribute only by leveling a wise justice, only by exhibiting a tender righteousness. We pay them tribute only by understanding what brought about their deaths and hewing to those principles that call us to a more abundant life.
Toward those ends, Amnesty International will mourn the victims; we will speak out against impunity for the perpetrators; we will demand that those innocent of crimes be protected and respected; and we will insist that justice is not justice if it fails to adhere to international human rights norms. Both the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and we in AIUSA have appointed Crisis Response Teams to work together in a coordinated, unified response to this tragedy and its aftermath. We will be determining as soon as possible how best our membership can help advance our common goals.
For death has come in an instant. And now there is work to be done.
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