We may have lost our innocence, but we still have our spirit of freedom

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
September 16, 2001

Innocence lost.

Wednesday morning, the sunrise was beautiful. Slowly creeping above Island Home Airport in the east, nature exhaled a fresh breath of warmth, and up slipped the clear, seemingly perfect center of our universe. The sight is usually magnificent; it was especially so that morning.

* * * * *

A week ago, on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, my family and I were playing in the park next to our house. As the kids climbed up and down the slide, a small, private plane flew low overhead, close enough for us to think our friendly waves to the pilot might actually be seen. That previously innocent experience will never be the same.

It is excruciating difficult to write this week.

I recently read a news report of a four-year-old Palestinian boy saying his life's ambition was to be a suicide bomber. Since his birth, he has been told that is the will of god. It has become almost commonplace to see daily terrorist and military attacks in the Middle East and to accept them as normal parts of their lives. Now we have to wonder if they will become a part of our lives.

It sickened my stomach to see Palestinian refugees in Lebanon celebrating these attacks in their streets. Children dancing, waving flags and chanting their pleasure. Some Egyptians called it the greatest act since their attack on Israel at the start of the 1973 October war. It will also sicken my stomach every time I see an aircraft pass overhead and visualize those four US passenger aircraft plunging to a fiery death.

The loss of human life remains to be known. But the loss extends well beyond the victims, survivors and families directly attacked this week. Obviously, those personal losses are the greatest; without experiencing a direct loss, it is impossible to fully understand their feeling.

But each of us lost something Tuesday morning. We lost some of our freedom. The walls around our borders and our houses will forever be taller and wider. We lost our innocence.

I saw live CNN video of explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan. In a way, the images revived televised visions of the 1990 war in Iraq. But the explosions in Kabul were different. They seemed so much closer. Eleven years ago, those pictures from Iraq seemed a billion miles away, sanitized by the comfort of my living room. Suddenly, Kabul, Baghdad, Lebanon and New York seem as close as Kingston Pike.

On my way home Tuesday, there was a strange pickup truck awkwardly parked at the entrance to our neighborhood. Out of character, I called the police, asking them to check it out. The terrorists won that small battle with me.

President Bush observed that terrorists can shatter the foundations of our buildings, but not our spirit. Each day, we hear new stories of heroes. Heroes who lost their lives in the immediate aftermath and those who continue to toil in the rubble, looking for survivors and recovering the victims.

But we must all be heroes. We must be heroes to our children, our friends and ourselves. Our world has changed, but we cannot let evil change our lives. The very spirit of freedom that makes us vulnerable also makes us strong. Because we are free, we walk with the collective swagger of a champion, making us an attractive target for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves. But we walk with that swagger because we know we will survive and ultimately thrive following this attack. That is what we do.

In another time of American crisis, it is reported Abraham Lincoln said, "you cannot help small men by tearing down big men." These godless cowards, and the people who support them, are bound to learn this lesson.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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