Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who We Are

[posted by Callimachus]

Today is the day we learn the names.

Alameddine, Bishop, Couture-Nowak, Cueva, Herbstritt, Loganathan, O'Neil, Ortiz, Read, Samaha.

Today is the day we meet neighbors we didn't know we had, and it's too late to do anything but marvel at them.

Ryan "Stack" Clark, from Martinez, Georgia, was working toward degrees in biology and English, and he played in the Marching Virginians band. "I don't think I ever saw him mad in the five years I knew him," a friend said.

Liviu Librescu survived the Holocaust and escaped Soviet-ruled Romania. His students sent e-mails to his son, telling them the professor saved their lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman and telling the kids to run for their lives before the bullets cut him down.

People born and raised here, or people who come here to live, work, and learn -- there really is no difference; we're all from somewhere else, ultimately, we Americans. As some European newspaper said recently in a brief sunburst of sanity (but maybe it was the "Telegraph"), hating Americans is absurd because Americans are everyone.

This is us. The crowd shots at the ceremonies, the faces of the random victims. You needn't feel ashamed to marvel amid the mourning at what a people we are. The word "diverse" has fallen into bad odor of late. That's a shame.

You watch TV every night, and you think you know Americans. You don't: You know celebrities and politicians. Then something like this happens, like a knife-wound to the nation. The knife cuts deep, and the arbitrary gash exposes the stuff inside. This is who we are.