Fighting back against terrorism

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

The leaders of a children's club in an Austin church asked me to come into the group on September 11th of this year and talk about the events a year earlier. I suppose they wished me to draw upon my police and military intelligence experience and say something helpful to the children, who range from third through fifth grade. It was a tough assignment to know what to say and, perhaps more serious, what not to say. Something like this dare not be done impromptu, but must be carefully thought through. I wrote out what I felt I should say, revised it, and then talked with them extemporaneously.

My thesis, for these children, was this: Terrible things have been happening around us, but you don't need to be afraid because we will protect you.

None of what happened on 9/11 was an accident, and everything was done on purpose. The planes were not flown into the buildings by their pilots, who are always very careful about the safety of their passengers. A group of very bad men, working together, hijacked the planes. That is, they hurt the pilots--perhaps they killed them right away--and took over the planes and then purposely flew them into the buildings. They wanted to kill everyone in the planes, and they wanted to kill everyone in the buildings.

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They wanted to do even more. They wanted to put fear into all Americans and all countries that are our friends. This is why we call them terrorists. A terrorist is a person who does something bad to put fear or terror into people. What they do we call terrorism, the act of creating terror.

Now it is very important you listen to the next thing I am going to say. This is never going to happen to you. We can't promise you that nothing will ever hurt you at least a little, but we do promise you that we will make sure you are never in a place where terrorism could happen to you. We won't let terrorists find you. Your family promises this to you. Your school does. The police and fire fighters promise this. This church promises you we will take care of you. I promise I will take care of you. If you had been in one of those buildings that was on fire and I was anywhere around, I would have gone into the building and I would have carried you out. I love you, and I would never let anything bad happen to you.

But I do need to tell you about people like the terrorists so you understand what sometimes happens and so you can stay away from danger. I want you to understand that you don't need to feel afraid. These terrorists didn't even try to hurt you; but by killing the people they did, they wanted to scare you into thinking you might be hurt because you live in America. Do you know what is the best way you can defeat terrorists? It is to stand up and say: You can't scare me. So there!

At this point I had all the children stand and shout this. I challenged them to say it louder, and they yelled with gestures. It thrilled me.

Not only in houses of worship (whether church, synagogue, mosque, or other) and schools, but more especially in families children need comfort and reassurance but also honesty. Terrible things have been happening around them, and they know it. What they need from us is not dishonest evasions but forthright assurance we will not allow them to be harmed.

Dr. Wallace Alcorn’s commentaries appear in the Herald on Mondays