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The planes are flying again. Even as I write this, I can hear the turbine rumble of a commercial jet soaring over my Chicago suburb. Slowly things are getting back to normal. But we all know they will never be normal in quite the same way. The very nature of "normal" has changed in America. The normal procedure for checking in at the airport now promises to be a lot more complicated. The normal routine of kissing your spouse and children goodbye in the morning suddenly becomes more necessary. The normal New York City skyline now has a hole in its heart.

And so do we.

As the dual towers fell, our collective soul collapsed with them. As one-fifth of the Pentagon burned, so did our rage. We had never seen anything like it before, not in real life anyway. Our voyeuristic captivation with the TV images gradually gave way to the awful realization that, unlike the computerized effects in a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick, those buildings and airplanes held living people—living people whose last moments were recorded before our very eyes.

Then we witnessed the footage of Middle Eastern exultation. We saw men and women cheering and praising Allah for our misfortune. We saw the Associated Press photo of the young Palestinian boy, dressed in a Spider-Man T-shirt, firing a rifle into the air in anti-American celebration. We saw the enemy, and they were Muslim.

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September 2001

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