One refrain heard over the last two week is that the United States now knows what is like to experience terrorism at home; but those who make such assertions must understand that the response of New Yorkers and Washingtonians to the Sept. 11 attacks is something to emulate. New Yorkers, wherever they’ve come from and whoever they are, have rallied behind Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and demanded that life in the city return to some semblance of normality, despite the grief and desolation all around. And to witness the revival of New York in the days after the bombing was a wondrous thing. Seeing the response of the city made a New Yorker out of the Australian novelist and Manhattan resident Peter Carey, and I imagine many visitors who were in New York on Sept. 11 will consider themselves New Yorkers for the rest of their lives—myself included.
Part of the U.S. response to terrorists ought to prove that New York is not exceptional in this regard; that the answer to terrorism could be described as the New York way; you overcome the consequences of war (if this is really what this is) by making new friends—as Mayor Giuliani and countless city officials adeptly proved over the last two weeks. President George Bush assures us that the first phase of a military campaign to oust terrorists is imminent; one can assume that the primary goal of such military action is to remove the regime that rules Afghanistan and harbors the leaders of al-Qaida— the Taliban. Capturing terrorists, however, may be impossible while they have friends to hide them and geography for fortification. It would be easier to march an entire 82nd Airborne Division through the eye of a needle than to find a man in the remote hills and obscure caves of northern Afghanistan—if that is where Bin Laden is hiding. But a victory over the Taliban cannot be considered a success unless it’s a victory Islam and America can both celebrate. As New Yorkers have shown, you can mourn or celebrate with anyone so long as you can be amicable and welcoming to strangers.