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An Essay by Marion Winik

audio Listen to Winik's essay.

Sept. 13, 2001 -- How does this sound? "Mothers Against Symbolism;" "Mothers Against Religion and Ideology;" "Mothers Against the Afterlife;" and, finally, "Mothers Against Indiscriminate Revenge?"

"Mothers Against Symbolism" is dedicated to the proposition that the World Trade Center was a building, not a symbol of American power or riches or world domination. It was a big building full of people. So, for that matter, was the Pentagon.

If the terrorists wanted to destroy a symbol, they should have gone for the Statue of Liberty -- at night. They could have paint-balled the Washington Monument. But even if they destroyed those symbols, they could not have destroyed the ideas they stand for. What can be destroyed are buildings and people, and that's what they have done.

"To me, any ideology or religious belief that makes something more important than human life is anti-sacred, and I am against it"

Marion Winik

By this act, the terrorists have destroyed what is most sacred to me -- that is, human life. To me, any ideology or religious belief that makes something more important than human life is anti-sacred, and I am against it. If the belief in an afterlife makes people more inclined to kill and die, I am against that, too.

At the college where I teach, people are walking around with red eyes and broken hearts asking each other, 'Did you lose someone?' For so many of us, the answer is, 'no, but yes.' As members of what turns out to be an American family, we are wondering, 'Who is going to read the bedtime stories? Who is going to kiss the boo-boos?' Even, 'Who is going to walk the dog?' Not to mention, 'Who is going to explain all this?'

This is why people are waiting for hours to give blood, why former New Yorkers like myself keep feeling we need to go home and help clean up; why almost no one can think without tears of the children of New York and Washington, of the husbands and wives of the flight crews, the passengers with the cell phones in their hands.

I beg our president: Please, for God's sake, don't kill any more innocent people. Don't attempt to relieve our suffering by spreading it. Don't make our freedom the equivalent of whatever those conspirators believed in. Families in Kabul are no more guilty of this crime than families here in Glen Rock, Penn. And we are all part of a bigger family, a world family. I do not mean this in a symbolic way.

Marion Winik is a writer living in Pennsylvania.