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