The Words of the Carlson Family

Challenging Times

Paul Carlson
October, 2001

As I write this article, America is hurting. First and foremost, my deepest condolences to anyone who lost loved ones and associates in the terrorist attacks. At least twice as many people perished on September 11th than did at Pearl Harbor. Ordinary citizens died in the heart of our largest city, and it happened on live TV.

Terrorism tends to come in bunches, but as this article goes to press, law enforcement has done an amazing job of tracking down the perpetrators. Let’s hope this success continues.


Here on the west coast we’ve been deeply affected. My pastor was invited to San Francisco's official prayer service at Grace Cathedral. The boss of a medical company I do many deliveries for (Mr. Burnett of Thoratec) died a hero in one of the hijacked planes.

A writer friend in New York City sent me a heart-rending personal report. Her father, a construction worker, was one of the rescuers.

These events have united America in a way that hasn’t been seen since World War Two. Our diverse religious leaders have shown a unified front.

Still, as a free people, Americans have expressed a variety of opinions. Some urged inviting hostile leaders to (what amounts to) picnics and group hugs. Other pushed the extreme of "kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out," even mentioning nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, America’s leaders have demonstrated political wisdom, and military expertise, in this tricky situation.

Writer’s Perspective

As a writer I have a certain perspective on these events. The events surrounding the World Trade Center were not unexpected. Tom Clancy’s thriller Debt of Honor, published in 1994, has a scene in which a hijacked 747 destroys the US Capitol building. Below is an exchange (edited for brevity) I had with Clancy in 1996, when he spoke online:

Sushiwritr: You write about the future. What about when reality overlaps your story line?

Tom Clancy: Sushi, that means I did it right.

Dale Brown’s novel Storming Heaven, also published in 1994, has a similar premise. In that story, the targets included San Francisco International Airport. (I had a brief email exchange with Mr. Brown which mentioned that novel.)

Another writer told me about a thriller novel called Empyre. Though rather comic-bookish, it almost exactly foretells the World Trade Center incident.

Was it a case of life imitating art? My writer’s group was already discussing the possibility of "writers causing bad things to happen." As usual, we had divergent opinions. Copycat crimes are sometimes prompted by intense news coverage. Over a longer time period, petty criminals may imitate a crime (kidnappings, scams, etc.) they saw in a movie or read about in a novel.

Several of my friends thought that writers ought not describe terrible (fictional) crimes, because that could upset people, and even provoke a couple of sickos to actually carry them out. Others disagreed, saying that criminals will do their thing without prompting from any novelist.

Our general conclusion was that realistic depictions of misfortune can make society conscious of them, and thus, able to face them squarely. The TV show All In The Family and the novel To Kill a Mockingbird were mentioned.

I think Mr. Clancy would defend his portrayals of terrorism. Mere descriptions leave out almost all the (highly sophisticated) steps needed to actually pull off such an operation. The Trade Center attack was long and cleverly planned, and carried out by trained men, including at least four suicidal guys who learned how to pilot that specific type of jet.

Clancy and Brown may well be Cassandras, but many people did listen to them. (Clancy even lectured at the CIA.) I’d say that’s what he "did right" with his novel. Both authors made the point that it’s almost impossible to defend against sudden airborne attacks. (From Brown’s 1994 Author’s Note: I hope it all remains a fantasy.)

Officials at all levels made serious preparations. Hence the smooth and rapid disaster response in New York and Washington, nationally, and even worldwide.


As the shock wore off, reactions poured in. Spontaneous expressions of grief were seen in virtually every nation.

Bill Gertz has become a recognized expert in this field. He has named the supporters of terrorism, even when most reporters kept silent, declining to ruffle certain long-favored feathers.

Experts such as Colonel Geoff Metcalf are finally getting a serious hearing. (See Our military and intelligence communities will gain new, and much needed, strength.

In the twelfth century the Order of the Assassins, who were based in the Middle East, inspired terrible fear. Rumors of a stealthy visit once caused a panic in far-away Paris. And they didn’t even have guns! Modern terrorists are trying to obtain a whole list of nasty ‘weapons of mass destruction.’

By the time you read this, actions will have been taken. The British ruled the Middle East for decades, understood that culture, and were not afraid to take stern measures. Of course, indiscriminate attacks by the United States might cause a massive backlash.

On the other hand, people imbued with those macho cultures regard pleas for reconciliation as a sign of weakness. Many of those desert and mountain dwellers have a brutal mindset straight out of primitive times!

America’s leftists actually blame the United States for the attack, claiming that our policies caused the terrorist’s resentment. Supposedly, if we didn’t support Israel, the bad guys would leave us alone.

If one reads the terrorist’s own statements, they accuse us for supporting all of the ‘moderate’ regimes over there, including Saudi Arabia. They condemn us for repelling Iraq, and for spreading our democratic and tolerant way of life across the globe. There is also an unspoken element of raw jealousy.

To sum up, the real fanatics hate us for simply existing. They’d kill every American they could, and drape every surviving woman in a burqa. (Bizarre side note: while in flight school, two of the suicide pilots liked to hang out at a Florida strip joint.)

Unificationists are doing their part to heal the nation. We’re in a good position to expand our ecumenical contacts and programs. We can work against blind prejudice, and help Americans understand the noble heart of Islam. As has often been said, Osama bin Laden is no more a Muslim than Timothy McVeigh was a Christian.


No one respects personal rights, and dislikes governments controls, more than I do. Yet, terrorists cannot be allowed to operate with impunity. These days, officials could go from being a Barney Fife beat cop to an Orwellian monster literally with the flip of a (hi-tech) switch. As I’ve said in previous articles, the ‘heart’ and ‘intentions’ of these guardians are what really matters.

These are challenging times. Our members, along with people of vision and faith everywhere, yearn for a better world. We’ve worked very hard to build the Kingdom, with wonderful results on many levels. No one thinks it’s an easy road. The Last Days won’t always go smoothly, and certain unsavory remnants of the past are not just going to fade away.

Let us continue our prayers and support for this good nation and its people. Let’s hope they catch every one of those terrorists and bring them to justice. Hopefully, patriotic American Muslims will take some resolute actions, and help root out the extremists that have been hiding in their midst.

Last but not least, as Rev. Moon and Billy Graham both said, let’s hope that from this terrible misfortune springs a great new spiritual revival.

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