Toni Morrison's piece
From the Princeton University Memorial service
The Dead of September 11
Some have God’s words; others have songs of comfort for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would like to speak directly to the dead – the September dead. Those children of ancestors born in every continent on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas, Australia; born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, gelees, wide straw hats, yarmulkas, goat-skin, wooden shoes, feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about nations, war, leaders, the governed and un-governable; all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil – wanton or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; to stand up before falling down. I would purge my language of hyperbole; of its eagerness to analyze the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their higher or lower status among others of its kind.
Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts. Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be seduced by blitz.
To speak to you, the dead of September, I must not claim false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say – no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become.
And I have nothing to give either – except this gesture, this thread thrown between your humanity and mine: I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through the darkness of its knell.
September 13, 2001
Last edited by JeffG : 09-27-2001 at 04:30 PM.