"Hope is about believing, with a humble heart, that tomorrow can be different. It's about knowing that light will come to chase away this darkness."
-- Author Unknown
Lockport had been my home up until Aug. 4, when a friend and I began a six-day drive across the border states to deliver me and my belongings to my new home in British Columbia. As a citizen of Canada but a "resident alien" of America for five years, last Tuesday's attack felt somehow personal.
I may live in British Columbia, but part of my heart still resides in Western New York. Lockport is a long way from Manhattan, but the mentality of New Yorkers does not change. There is a special pride that comes with being a resident of the Empire State. I witnessed that pride many times during my life there. New Yorkers are a special combination of guts and attitude, but never has that been more evident than in this past week.
It's hard to imagine sometimes that light will ever come again. In the aftermath of one of the darkest hours in North America's history, we confront the darkness of not only the evil that is the terrorist mind, but also the darkness that dwells in ourselves as we grapple with how to respond to such an incomprehensible, violent act.
To be so violently shaken out of a complacent slumber to face a world that barely resembles the one you knew yesterday is initially shocking and mind-numbingly horrifying, but shock soon turns to anger at the senselessness of it all. In anger, we demand accountability and we rush to vengeance.
"America the Beautiful" is now battered and bruised, but even as it lies bleeding, its heartbeat is still strong and steady. In this most heinous crime against humanity, we have once again learned what it is to be humane to our fellow human beings.
In this shockingly brutal display of uncivilized behavior, we have discovered civility as we collectively mourn the tremendous loss of life, and the loss of complacency as we deal with the reality that we are not invulnerable to displays of hatred from others.
It is a dark time, but in the darkness there is light. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that light will ever come again. But look around and you will see that the light we're all searching for now shines brighter than ever. This act of terrorism didn't divide the nation, it unified and solidified it. It brought out the best in people.
The light we're all looking for shines in the memories of the priest who gave his life to administer last rites to a fallen comrade, and to the police officers and firefighters who ran into the buildings while everyone else was running out.
It shines in the memory of a few brave souls aboard an airliner whose heroic efforts cost them their lives but saved the lives of so many more.
It shines in the people who lined up for hours to donate blood.
It shines in the volunteers who risked their own lives to find survivors trapped under smoldering rubble.
It shines in the people who put their own safety aside that morning to stop and help a stranger make it out alive.
It shines in the children who made sandwiches to feed volunteers or donated their pennies to help victims.
It shines in every citizen who stopped to hug a stranger, or to cry with him, or to simply gather to pray and light candles of hope.
It shines as brightly in American citizens as it does in their political and spiritual leaders, in their rescue workers, in their police forces and in their military.
It is difficult sometimes to see beyond the carnage and not feel, in those moments of acute sadness and anger, that America was brought to its knees. But look beyond the carnage to where the lights shine, and you will see that America is not only alive and well, but on its feet and standing just a little taller today.
NADINE BURGESS lives in Coquitlam, British Columbia.
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