On November 11, 2001, Community Unity organized a Veterans Day tribute in Corydon, Indiana. I was asked to write a speech to be delivered by one of our other members, a police officer. This is the speech, which I offer here in tribute to all the heroes who have fallen since.
This gathering is a solemn celebration. It is a celebration because we recognize that we are a community with much to share. It is solemn because one of the things we share is loss.
This loss was not sustained by the United States alone, but by the whole world. When the hijackers targeted the WORLD Trade Center towers, they targeted the economies of many nations. When they killed, they killed citizens of many nations. And, when police officers, firefighters, and rescue workers ran INTO those buildings, UP those stairs, and TOWARD the smoke and flames, they were rushing to save people from many nations. They didn’t stop to ask where those people came from. They didn’t ask about their colors, faiths, or incomes. They already knew the only important thing: there were people who needed them.
Since September 11th, a new threat has materialized and has been met with quiet courage. We have come to appreciate the day-to-day dedication and valor of another company of citizens: our postal workers.
We value peace; we hope and strive for non-violent resolution to conflict. We also value the sacrifice of the men and women who go into battle for us when they must. They are men and women of a variety of ethnic backgrounds, of many faiths or of no faith, and they exclude none of us from their protection.
We can do no better than to follow these examples. Tonight, we will sing together, stand together, remember together. Some of us will express our deepest thoughts. Whether those thoughts are filled with faith in a Supreme Being or not, whether they are expressed in the form of prayer or not, whether they are the same things we would say or not, we share them, because we share a common humanity, a common loss, a common gratitude to the people who put their lives in our service, no matter who we are or where we were born.
Mary Parker Follett, an American writer, said, “Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim. We attain unity only through variety. Differences must be integrated, not annihilated, not absorbed.”
Tonight, we celebrate our differences and our community. Tonight, we join together to declare our community a NO HATE ZONE. With many voices, but one will, we unite in remembrance, in thanks, and in hope.
Please join us in singing “America the Beautiful” as these young people carry the flags of other countries. We are many nations, but we are one world. As we light our candles tonight, we remember the lives that have been lost, the lives that have been forever changed, the lives that have been given, and the lives that are now at stake in pursuit of justice. We light these candles with love, and we push back the darkness.