The People For the American Way Foundation Community Reflects on the Tenth Anniversary of September 11, 2001

"This week, along with millions of other Americans, all of us at People For the American Way Foundation are remembering the events that unfolded ten years ago. Even a decade later, it’s impossible to look back on that day without remembering the sadness and grief that so many of us felt. But we also remember the truly heroic actions that were taken by ordinary Americans that day, and the sense in the days that followed that all of us were united in our shared sense of loss. That memory should serve as a powerful reminder that our common commitment to our core democratic values is more important than anything that divides us.

"Ten years later, our country is struggling to live up to that principle: our political discourse has become a toxic mix of anger and shortsightedness in which some feel comfortable challenging the character and patriotism of anyone who disagrees with them; bigotry against immigrants and Muslim Americans has not only been allowed to thrive, but actively encouraged; our government still at times displays an unsettling disrespect for our civil liberties and for the rule of law.

"We still have a long way to go towards being a nation that lives up to its aspirations, but I’m confident with a commitment to our core values of democracy, justice, and equality for all people under the law we will continue to grow towards that goal. I hope that as we look back on the tragedy of September 11th, all Americans will take the opportunity to rededicate themselves to building a nation worthy of those we lost that day." --Michael Keegan, President, People For the American Way Foundation

" I don’t know why of all things this is what I remember from that day, but it’s as vivid as if it was just yesterday. I was working at the time for my mentor and hero, Senator Paul Wellstone; most of the staff had evacuated the Hart Building as we were told to do (at the time it was not clear where that third plan which so tragically crashed in the fields of Pennsylvania was headed) and the few of us left in the office were desperately trying to get Paul to leave – and he wouldn’t. He was a public servant, he was sent to Washington, D.C., to serve the people. His wife and children were, thankfully, safe at home in Minnesota – his job, his duty, was to serve. Over the too-short a span between then and his tragic death in October, 2002, he served. He made some wrenching decisions, like the one authorizing sending troops to Afghanistan in pursuit of Al Qaeda and he made what he thought could well be a career-ending decision to oppose the invasion of Iraq. But he served: with honor, integrity, and a commitment to do the very best he could for the people who put their faith in him. He didn’t play politics.

"I think the reason I’m remembering this now is because of the stark comparison to the seedy political drama unfolding right now in front of our eyes. I see people suffering because they don’t have jobs, they are underwater on their homes, they don’t have health insurance, their unemployment insurance is running out, their kids are in over-crowded classrooms in buildings that are decaying -- and worst of all, their hope is slowly being beaten out of them. And yet we can’t seem to get to any meaningful relief because too many self-serving elected officials on Capitol Hill are playing politics with these Americans’ lives. They are not serving, let alone serving with honor, integrity and a commitment to those who put their faith in them. We have to do better." --Marge Baker, Vice President for Policy and Program, People For the American Way Foundation

" 9/11 shaped the way my generation views the world and how we view the values upon which America was built. That terrible act of terrorism did not shake my faith in those values, but it strengthened my commitment to them. On this tenth anniversary of those events, I remember that we can only ever truly enjoy security through an unwavering commitment to liberty." --Dustin Cox, 2007 YP4 Fellow and Front Line Leadership Academy Fellow, University of Arizona

" I become a Chaplain for months after that for families looking for family members, Responders, anyone who needed to have someone to talk to. In all my training, I was not trained, prepared for a tragic experience of this kind of magnitude. This year we will remember all who lost their lives. But we will especially remember with one of our own who lost her daughter on September 11, 2001, what it means to deal with daily pain, daily killing, and the daily need for respect." --Reverend Melvin Wilson, Pastor, St. Luke AME Church, New York, New York; Member, African American Ministers Leadership Council

"I vividly remember watching the towers fall from PFAW’s conference room; hearing rumors of a truck bomb at the State Department, where one of my best friends had just started working; taking a call from a colleague who had witnessed the plane hitting the Pentagon and was stuck helplessly in the resulting traffic jam; fearing for friends in New York City; and making my way via an unfamiliar bus to a local university where my new-to-DC partner was having a meeting. I also remember returning to work on the 13th and being astonished to hear Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blame the attacks on gays, feminists, liberals, and People For the American Way, among others. It was a harsh reality check about how quickly the spirit of national unity might fade. But it also provided a way to get back to work, distributing copies of the exchange to news outlets and exposing the meanspiritedness at the heart of the Religious Right movement." --Peter Montgomery, Senior Fellow, People For the American Way Foundation

"Today is a solemn day of remembrance for all Americans – and for those of us in elected office it is a powerful reminder of the people and values that we work for. Ten years ago, even in one of this country’s darkest hours, ordinary Americans stood up to help their friends, neighbors and strangers and banded together to defend our common values. Today there is still work to be done to protect the liberty, equality and access to opportunity that are the core of our democracy. But as elected officials, we go to work every day knowing that we’re fighting for a great country." --Andrew Gillum, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, and Tallahassee City Commissioner

"The day of and the first week after the attack, I found myself ministering to many who were trying to understand the absolute fear, uncertainty, insecurity they felt – both believers in God and Christ and unbelievers. Later on, I found myself defending my right to be both a proud American and critical of some of the government’s actions in the midst of a country in fear and despair. Now, ten years later, I am still ministering to many, and still hold my American belief in the power of peace, diplomacy and love of my brothers and sisters, of all God’s children." --Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director, African American Ministers Leadership Council, Washington, DC

"The 10th anniversary will fall on our annual “Friends and Family Day”. We are inviting all in our community – no matter what the faith tradition - to join us in worship, in reflection. Had I done this pre 9-11? No. Why now? Because I am more aware of what we have in common, beyond the lines that can divide – ethnicity, race, religion - our humanity." --Reverend Dr. Louis B. Jones, II, Pastor, Pilgrim Baptist Church, Washington, DC; Member, African American Ministers Leadership Council

"I’ve been impatient with the media calling 9/11 a ‘tragedy,’ which seems to sanitize things. It was a savage crime, the mass murder of thousands of people by terrorist fanatics loaded up on religious delusions. But I understand the mistake because it was definitely the saddest day we have experienced as a people in our lifetime, and everyone I know was shell-shocked and dumbfounded for months afterwards. Too bad we had a president who squandered the sympathy and solidarity of the world by marching us off to war in Iraq under false pretenses, unleashing horrific killing and misery in that country, dismantling basic legal commitments of our nation like the ban on torture, and presiding over a partial descent from the rule of law into sadistic anarchy, as exemplified by the events at Abu Graib and the lawlessness of favored profiteering corporations like Blackwater. We need political leaders who actually believe in the Enlightenment values of our Constitution and Bill of Rights and will fight for them at the same time that we pursue the enemies of democracy." --Jamie Raskin, Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation, professor of law at American University Washington College of Law (visiting at Yale Law School) and Maryland State Senator

"In the last 10 years, I've tried to live a more inclusive life--publicly and privately. I'm constantly aware of being in a religiously pluralistic society, and always trying to find common ground with those who until now were not on my front burner. Our worship service at All Souls Church is centered around the spiritual theme of "Reconciliation." This entire month we will begin a series of workshops, educational classes, and small group ministry groups -to discuss how we can begin a pathway to wholeness as a multicultural, and multiracial people of faith." --Rev. Dr. Susan Newman, Associate Minister for Congregational Life and Social Justice, All Souls Church, Washington DC; Member, African American Ministers Leadership Council

"Instantly I thought of the children and how their lives would never be the same. I thought of how they would never experience the peace and the hope I have experienced as an American. The country had changed and it really became "God has to help us now". He was and He still is, especially for the children." --Bishop Diana Williams, Imani Temple, African American Catholic Congregation, Washington, DC; Member, African American Ministers Leadership Counci

"Seeing the country join together to fight against an act of hatred has led me to question why we do not always unite together to stand up against hate and for the values that we share. Witnessing the atrocity of 9/11 and its aftermath encouraged me to seek solidarity in my community and work toward social justice and change." --Amanda Matos, 2011 YP4 Fellow, Columbia University

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