September 11, 2002

A year should give us perspective. Three-hundred-sixty-five days in which to cart off the debris, get our bearings, and take the first small step on the path toward understanding.

Of course, none of that has occurred. We are just as baffled, just as horrified, just as incredulous, as we were that September morning twelve months ago. And that, ultimately, is our beacon of hope, our island of sanity, our assurance that civilization will survive and goodness will triumph.

If ours was a world in which such evil was credulous, in which such wickedness was comprehensible, it would be an evil world. The fact that we have not — and never will — come an iota closer to understanding what happened on September 11, 2001 is the ultimate validation of everything we believe and stand for, the ultimate proof of the intrinsic goodness of our world, and our ultimate weapon against the forces of darkness.

We will never understand — and it is good that it is so. But neither should we desist from the effort and the duty to reflect on what we have seen and take its significance to heart. We have seen unadulterated evil. And we have seen utter human goodness in the form of firefighters rushing up the stairwells of the burning buildings and men and women refusing to leave injured co-workers behind. Man has shown us how evil he can be, and how noble. We shall never understand, but we have much to learn.

It is toward this effort to reflect, learn and share what we've seen and learned that we have compiled this collection of 9/11 articles which have appeared in Magazine. Some of these articles were written immediately following the murderous attacks and reflect the agony and the turmoil of those days. Others were written in the ensuing months, so that an ostensibly calmer tone prevails. Two of them were actually written before September 11, 2001 — the problem of evil has always been with us, of course — yet they speak to our post 9/11 minds with equal poignancy.

May G‑d help us in the infinitely difficult task He has given our generation: to learn and grow also — and especially — from the horrible and the incomprehensible.