The spirit of America: bowed, but unbroken
September 14, 2001
BY RICHARD ROEPER
I am the spirit of America. I am the Stars and Stripes waving proudly from homes, schools, football fields, office buildings and government centers.
I am New York City Chief of Department Peter J. Ganci, Jr., First Deputy Fire Commissioner William Feehan, Capt. Raymond Downey and FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge.
I am the hundreds of firefighters, policemen and Port Authority officers who are missing and will not be found.
I am the men and women who knew they were going to die and thus jumped from the towers, choosing to have some measure of control over the last breaths they would take.
I am the thousands of volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves and donned surgical masks to aid the workers digging through the incomprehensible rubble and debris in lower Manhattan.
I am Michael Benfante, 22, and John Cerqueria, 36, who carried a disabled woman down 68 floors of a World Trade Center stairwell and placed the woman in an emergency van.
I am the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 who fought with their hijackers and brought the plane down outside Pittsburgh, 250 miles from its intended target in Washington, D.C.
I am the dozens of passengers aboard the other hijacked planes who called loved ones to say goodbye, or tried to alert authorities.
I am the pilots and flight attendants on those planes.
I am President George W. Bush, doing and saying the right things in the face of an unprecedented national tragedy.
I am former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, voicing unconditional support for President Bush.
I am the members of Congress, standing on the steps of the Capitol and breaking into a rendition of "God Bless America."
I am the loved ones who are holding up photos on TV, pasting leaflets on the side of TV news vans, and keeping vigil in the faint hopes that their mother, their father, their child, will be found.
I am the crowds lining the streets of lower Manhattan, cheering the rescue workers and truck drivers and technicians heading to the disaster site.
I am the nurses and doctors who have come to New York to help.
I am the millions of Americans who have reached out to friends with e-mails and phone calls saying, "I hope you're all right I hope you didn't lose anyone close to you, and if I haven't said it lately, I love you."
I am New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, wearing a cap and sweatshirt emblazoned with logos of the New York City Fire Department, standing strong and calm and forceful while addressing the city.
I am the thousands upon thousands of Americans in Los Angeles and Denver and Phoenix and Detroit and Philadelphia who have lined up to donate blood.
I am the electric ribbon of red, white and blue rimming the top of the John Hancock Center on a Wednesday night in September.
I am the New Yorkers who have laid flowers and hand-scribbled words of mourning at the site of the disaster.
I am the construction workers who fashioned stretchers from materials at their nearby work sites, and then joined the firefighters and the police in rescue efforts.
I am the Chicago-area firefighters who rode in a caravan of RVs and SUVs to New York to offer assistance to their colleagues.
I am the people gathered in Riverfront Park in Spokane, Wash., singing "Amazing Grace."
I am the business professionals who have donated coffee, food, hotel rooms, phones and other services.
I am the journalists covered in soot and risking their own safety so they can tell the world what has happened.
I am the camera operators who stood strong and took video and still photographs, even as people around them ran for their lives.
I am General Electric, donating $10 million to the families of emergency workers who have lost their lives.
I am the investigators who are working swiftly and with precision to identify the terrorists and their accomplices.
I am the Pentagon workers who aren't coming home.
I am Ronnie Clifford, who was trying to save a woman's life outside the first tower, even as his own sister was aboard the United Airlines plane that was about to hit the second tower.
I am the rescue personnel who toil to the point of exhaustion, take a break--and then get back to the most grisly and heartbreaking work imaginable.
I am the millions of Americans who will mourn, weep, pray--and never forget.
I am the spirit of America, and I am alive and strong, and you can never kill me.