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Giving in to Fear
An Essay by Mark Leslie Shook

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Where were you when the World Trade Center collapsed? In the weeks and months ahead, it will be important to remember that awful moment, to recall the empty feeling that slammed us in the pit of the stomach, to be reminded of the taste of tears welling up in our eyes as we began to realize the enormity of the unspeakable loss of life.

Terrorism is a form of warfare where the victims are depended upon to amplify and expand the magnitude of the terrorist act long after the event is over. Those who planned and carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon are counting on all of us to play our part to make the terror last. We must not give the terrorists that pleasure. We may not be able to personally dig through the rubble to rescue survivors, only some will participate in the investigation of the mass homicide; donating blood is good, but there is so much more that we can actually do.

The terrorists want us to tear ourselves apart as a nation. We must respond with all the unity of a grand nation of immigrants. The terrorists want us to destroy our own economy with panic and rumors. We must respond with steely calm and attention to the truth. The terrorists want us to wage a holy war against ourselves pitting Jew against Muslim against Christian. We must respond by joining hands in efforts to care for the injured, comfort the bereaved and strengthen the true peacemakers. The terrorists want us to destroy our open society with oppressive security measures, xenophobia and paranoia. We must respond by reaffirming the foundation of human rights upon which our society is built.

Who wins in this battle against the terror murderers is really up to us.

Mark Lesley Shook is senior rabbi at Temple Israel in St. Louis.