Nine years suddenly seems an awfully long time. To mark the 9/11 anniversary, here's a letter to the president I wrote in high school. I think it was a history assignment, but that doesn't change the urgency or earnestness of the voice (nor does it excuse the particularly overwrought metaphor at the end - but my being 14 probably does). And I know he probably had better-qualified advisers telling him what to do, but gee I really wish George Bush had listened to me...
September 16, 2001
Dear Mr. President: I am a fourteen year old sophomore at a small private high school in Central California. I am writing to convey my feelings about last Tuesday’s events and the current crisis in the United States.
I want to be perfectly honest. To my young mind, the attack on the United States was profoundly motivating, and, in an ironic way, inspiring. I have never felt compelled to express pride at being American. I took my country for granted. I enjoyed complaining about what I felt was wrong with American culture. But after Tuesday, I want to declare to the world that I am a patriotic American, that yes, my country has her faults, but look how strong she stands, look how courageous she is in the face of terror. I am inspired to follow the footsteps of our nation’s great heroes and be a force in my own generation.
My generation is the next in line. We can shape the face of tomorrow, and the atrocities of September eleventh will burn bright in our minds in the years to come. The suffering and the shock have contributed to a new awareness. You, as our nation’s leader, can use this to your advantage. You must not exploit it, but know that the nation’s youth stands in a different place now than we did a week ago. Your responsibility is massive, and I admire anyone who can shoulder this burden. Remember that if you are a wise and prudent leader, you will have the support of a nation of youths who have been changed for the better by this event.
As one of these youths, I ask that you take care as you consider how to respond. Know for sure who is responsible before any action is taken. Retaliate only in order to ensure that this sort of event never happens again and not for the purposes of revenge. Do your best to avoid further injuring or killing of innocent people. Follow these guidelines and the people of your nation, particularly the youth, will follow you.
The events of September eleventh, 2001, changed all of us. As I watched them unfold, that small spark of inert patriotism in me turned at last into a flame. That same flame now burns in the youth of a nation. Use it to light up the path for the future.
Sincerely, Miranda R. Ward
It's a coincidence that I now live in another country. (I think).