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Richard Liddell regularly provides us with his tales of growing up in South Walkerville in the 50s and 60s. For our September 2002 issue, he shares his thoughts about a much more recent event. (This is exclusive to our website.)


By Richard H. Liddell

The day started with a phone call from my daughter in Michigan. “Dad, turn on the T.V.! A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center! Oh my God, another plane just crashed into the other tower! What’s going on Dad? What does it mean? What’s going to happen?”

That night, after being transfixed at work and at home by the unbelievable events which unfolded all that day on television, I was compelled to write the following:

September 11, 2001

To My Grandchildren, Sydney, Seth and Aden and the child yet to be born:

In my late teens and early twenties, I thought I knew all the answers; life was black and white. But the older I get, the more the colours are subdued; shades of gray permeate issues once very definite.

Today a horrible event scarred its way into history. If you ask, “Why did this happen, Pop Doc?” the best answer is,

“I don’t know.”

Seth, Grammie and I have already labeled you “the sensitive one” and you proved this when you asked your Mom, “Did the people on the planes know they were going to die?”

This is a question that adults are too afraid to ask and although I feel they probably did know their fate, maybe the best answer is,

“I don’t know.”

As I was growing up, I remember my grandmother praying that none of her grandchildren would ever have to go to war as her sons-in-law, my father and uncle did.

I now know how Gram felt because I pray a similar wish to protect you from harm and from war but as of this moment,
I don’t know.

Our religion teaches us to love thy neighbour as thyself. This means even if someone intentionally causes harm, you should not respond with anger but with love.

How is this possible in this case?
I don’t know.

Perhaps the best lessons are yet to be learned: those of the human spirit. Already firefighters, police and rescue volunteers have died trying to save others. There will be stories of heroics in the coming days that will fill huge volumes of prose in the future. Poems and songs will honour this event.

After listening to the mayor of New York respond to the call with a calm, confident resolve, I believe the terrorists have made the biggest mistake of their lives by executing this brilliant plan. America’s strength is not in bricks and mortar; it is in the spirit of its people.

How can someone hate so much?
I don’t know.

By luck, you children have been born into an upper middle class white family into the most powerful country in the world. What if you had been born in a third world country constantly at war with its neighbours, where your grandparents disappeared one night never to return, where your father died in battle and your mother must leave you alone to try to work amid the rubble of a broken society where buildings are blown away each and every day?

How would you see the world? Would a demagogue be able to persuade you to die for an unjust cause? Would you be able to hate with a hate that accepts these terrible consequences?
I don’t know.

In our state of confusion, there is a desperate need to blame someone. Not all of our responses will be honourable – people will blame those of certain cultures just because they are the same nationality as the terrorists. They will burn their businesses, take away some of their liberties and threaten them.

It can be argued that this response is even worse than the original act. Those responsible will call this a “holy war” but let there be no mistake- it was hate, not religion, that motivated this event.

What do I know?

I know that I love you very much.

I know you will have questions that your parents, teachers and your minister can try to answer.

I know that evil only wins in the short term and that goodness will always prevail.

I know that out of these ashes of hate our world will recover and be stronger and terrorism will be eliminated.

I know we will become more tolerant of others and we will stop the causes that allowed this atrocity to happen.

That is what I know.

Pop Doc

Quinn Cameron Westlake Liddell, my son Matthew’s first child, (The child yet to be born), arrived on January 16, 2002 into a world surrounded by the fallout from September 11th.

Most of us had a reality check on September 11th, 2001. Many things that were important on September 10th became insignificant – family and friends and a sense of goodness rose to the top.

So in many ways Quinn was born into a better world.

Someday I will read her this letter.



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