My name is Coleen Kelly. My brother Bill died on September 1 lth at the World Trade Centers in New York City. He wasn't supposed to be there. Bill didn't work at the Towers. Instead, he was attending a one-day conference after persuading his boss to allow hirn to go. This would be an event from which Bill would never return. Bill didn't have a choice — he was trapped on the 106th floor of Tower 1. And he used that word 'trapped' in his last messages. But we also know Bill was hopeful in that final agonizing hour. His messages also said he was waiting for the Fire Department — men who were miming into burning buildings while thousands attempted to scramble out.
There should be Moral outrage at the fanatics who murdered my brother. At the twist of fate that led him to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. A twist of fate had situated people at a certain place and time. For many, including my brother, there were no options.
However, since September 12th, the American people and the entire global community, did have a choice. How would we respond to terror? What was the meaning and form of true justice? There were many options available.
A Rabbi began seeking out the last words and sentences of anyone he could who was killed that day. Not a single person said "Get them back." "Kill them." "Avenge my death." No. Last words were not about hatred; they were not about vengeance. Last words of those killed on 9-11 were sometimes about fear, but ultimately, and overwhelmingly, the words were about love. "Tell mom and dad I love them." "Tell the kids I'll miss them and I love them." "Julie, it's bad, but know that I love you."
So what do these last words tell us? Last words should never be the end result of political violence, but instead they should reflect a full life well lived: there is another powerful message for any of us willing to hear. There's a time for righteous moral outrage, but in the end, it's about love. And in the end, for those of us who remain, it's about very difficult choices. Our choice of response can be creative and life affirming, or as destructive as the initial violence wrought. The choice is ours.