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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
A National Day of Prayer and Remembrance
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Virginia

September 14, 2001

Thank you all for joining us.

President Bush has declared this a day of "prayer and remembrance" for the victims of Tuesday's attacks in New York and here in Arlington. At noon, he will be attending services at the National Cathedral in Washington, and will likely make some remarks there.

So it is fitting that we gather now, in groups like this around the country, to begin the process of coping with the unprecedented loss of innocent life and the horrendous shock to our peaceloving and humane society.

Unlike catastrophes we have faced in the past, these vicious acts were carried out before our eyes on color television. That horror is now graven indelibly in the national psyche. It will haunt our nights and cloud our days until eventually, inevitably, our inherent spirit of courage and optimism is reasserted.

For now, we have devised no suitable healing rituals to help endure a calamity on this scale and in this form. We have yet no adequate way to mourn the thousands of dead whose identities - indeed, whose very numbers - will remain unknown for days or weeks to come. No amount of compassion and grief seems sufficient to match the deepest abyss of evil that we have witnessed on our soil.

Some of us have lost friends, relatives and loved ones in the atrocities. But all of us feel deeply that we have lost members of the national family. And each of us, too, has lost some measure of the confident assurance that we had come to regard as a defining characteristic of America in the 21st century.

I ask you to join me now in a minute of silent meditation in memory of the still-uncounted victims, and of those profoundly courageous men and women who lost their lives in rescue efforts.

We have with us a member of the NSF Family, the Reverend Beverly (B.J.) Goines, who will now say a few words.

Thank you, Reverend Goines.

Before we depart, I want to thank you all again for the dedication and professionalism you have shown this week. It has not been easy. Many commentators are saying, over and over again, that America will never be the same.

In some ways, of course, that is true. But there is an equally important sense in which it must not be true. We must force ourselves to return, as quickly as possible, to the routines of our daily lives. Every one of you, I know, feels a powerful need to do something to help right these wrongs, to ease the suffering and to find a measure of retribution.

I want to remind you that we do that every day. The work we do - the science and engineering we support - helps as much as any human action to combat the global factors that encourage events such as Tuesday's, which include ignorance, poverty and prejudice. Every week we move the boundaries of knowledge and reason a little farther ahead. Every month we get genuinely, if sometimes imperceptibly, closer to a world in which decency, community, tolerance and freedom can flourish.

Thank you.



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