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The following is the prepared text of a speech I will be giving at a 9/11 memorial service at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island this evening.


So now it's three years since my husband was killed, and here we are again to talk about it.

My son is not a baby anymore. He's five now, and I can look at his face and see the teenager he will become, if not yet the man. He doesn't remember his father. As much as this pains me, I have to admit that it's probably better for him; he will have the lack, but no knowledge of the loss. He's actually adjusted to his new situation much more easily than I have to mine. Children are very resilient.

I started dating again. After three years, finding a man I could talk to was like finding water in a desert. It made me feel a little guilty, but I think Rich would understand, because he was such a loving man himself, and I don't think he would have wanted me to dry up and blow away -- for a while I thought I might do just that. But I suppose I won't; and it turns out that there is life after death: there is my life. It just needed to be rebuilt -- stone by stone. The work still isn't finished.

So. Really, there isn't too much in my own life to talk about. Widowhood has its own channels; it has recognizable signposts. Now I will be sad; now I will be angry; now I will be guilty; now I will move on. When a state of emergency becomes permanent, then it's not an emergency anymore.

So I look outside myself for something to talk about, and I see that there appears to be quite a lot going on. After all, it's an election year, and we find ourselves in the most divisive campaign that I can ever remember. I'm not going to tell you how many campaigns that is.

It seems like the candidates are talking a lot about what happened to my husband. How we should honor him. How we should prevent what happened to him from happening again. Everybody has the answers, and the answers are all different. So you'll forgive me when I tell you that I've stopped listening.

The last time I spoke here, I said something about how we should use the tragedy of my husband's death, along with so many others, to give our own lives new poignancy. I don't think I used exactly those words, but that was the gist of it. Carpe amare, was what I was telling you then: seize the love.

Instead, our nation has used these deaths in another way entirely. We've thrown them in each other's faces as we seek to place the blame for them somewhere we can touch it and revile it, somewhere cathartic. we've politicized them to the Nth degree, and people compare the number of our innocent dead to the number of Iraqi civilians killed in war, not to grieve but to rant, to foam at the mouth. I hoped that we would seize the love. Carpe odium is what we've done instead: we've seized the hate.

I was trying not to think about this. I know I mentioned that I wasn't listening to the presidential campaign any more. I was blocking it out, and refusing to think about the implications. But when Ben asked me to speak tonight, and I had to start thinking about what to say to you, this is what kept coming to mind, unbidden.

Now, I don't care who you vote for. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I care who becomes President. But I decided to talk about this because I want you all to do me a favor. It's the same favor I asked last time. If Ben asks me to come back, I'll probably ask the same favor again.

Here's the favor. I want you to stop thinking about politics. I want you to stop thinking about how bad the other guy will be as President. I want you to ignore their war records. I want you to laugh in the face of the smear campaigns. Just go ahead, vote your conscience; I'm sure it'll be good enough -- it'll have to be good enough. But instead of thinking about politics, here's what I want you to do.

Go home and look at your family. Think about how much you love them. Then tell them how much you love them. Express your love any way you can think of. Give your wife some flowers. Call your mother. Let your kids stay up late, just for one night, and play Monopoly. Whatever. The point is that you sould think about me, up here, tonight -- remember why I'm here -- and remember that it is a very fine line between life and death, between love and hate. You should remember that, and you should choose.

You should choose.


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