We may not know for many days yet how high the human casualties of Tuesday's attacks will mount. But we should take care that some of our country's basic values don't fall casualty to the attacks, too. Things like our capacity to reason calmly, our sense of caring for one another, and a basic optimism that - in spite of these horrifying acts -there are still things we can do to make the world a better place.
As I walked around my small city here in central Virginia on Tuesday, I was struck by how united everyone here seemed in their grief, and how gently people were treating one another. It was as if we were all family, and perhaps in a sense we were. And maybe we all still need time to come to terms with the horrifying dimensions of our country's loss.
So we grieve. We offer comfort to the bereaved and thanks to the rescuers, and set about the business of repair. But as we do so, we must start thinking about what our country should do to try to ensure that such a cataclysm of hate-filled violence is never again hurled against our shores.
Where does such hate come from? Hate that led the planners and perpetrators of the attacks to hijack civilian planes and then - unprecedentedly - to turn the aircraft, their fuel tanks, and their entire payload of civilian families, into enormous and deadly weapons aimed against further huge concentrations of human beings, nearly all of them civilians.