Yesterday afternoon, after I checked into my hotel, I walked down to Lower Manhattan. I had seen pictures of the impressive building that now stands on the site of the former World Trade Center, but I wanted to see the architecture of the “Freedom Tower” with my own eyes. Even with all of the hype, it does not disappoint. And yet, despite the setting sun gleaming off the glass, and the beautiful blue sky and clouds beyond, the backdrop of terror that lies at its foundation is still fresh. Before September 11, 2001, we knew that terror existed around the world. But we usually viewed it at a distance — across a sea, across a border, across the world. On that fateful day, the terror came home to our doorstep.
While this was a new experience for us, it is much more commonplace for the parties whose homes are in the Middle East. Jews, Palestinians, the Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians and Jordanians all have stories of terror that hit way too close for comfort. Many of them have seen their homes destroyed. Some were even forced from their homes at gunpoint so that newly arrived immigrants could move into them and claim them as “abandoned.” Their wounds are much older than ours. Perhaps that has given them time to heal, so that these populations are more prepared than we are to move beyond the terror. Perhaps that time has just given those wounds more time to ache and fester. Either way, whatever future can be built in their homelands will have to be built on a foundation of terror that hit very close to home. And as I look up at the skyline of Lower Manhattan, I realize that we have a lot of catching up to do on what it means to have terror at our doorsteps.