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Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

By Elie Wiesel

NEW YORK -- I remember that day. I remember it like a burn that is not yet healed. On that day, all of humanity, near and far, struck in its heart as well as in its destiny, was awakened as vulnerable, plunged in mourning, open to danger and fear.

And to sadness.

I was in a taxi at Grand Central Station with Marion, my wife. Suddenly, the driverfs radio began to bellow out. Rapid, broken-up sentences that I could not understand. Something to do with airplanes. Marion leaned forward to hear better, but I told her to wait; we would soon be at home. Meanwhile the traffic on 3rd Avenue stopped. Everyone was listening. Together we looked out of the rear window and we saw the first tower on fire under a bright sun and blue sky.

I remember what happened next. Long lines of men and women, wanting to give blood, in front of hospitals and improvised infirmaries. In the street, inspired by a powerful surge of feeling, strangers exchanged remarks and gestures in a rare mood of solidarity before their common destiny. Because the suicidal terrorists were united in Evil and Shame, we, their adversaries, wanted to be allied in combat for Good and Honor.

That day will remain in the memory of humanity and of each individual like a pain that nothing will alleviate. Like a dividing line, too. Nothing will be the same as before. Since then, the human condition itself seems to be have exposed itself, flayed and metamorphosed. First of all in its daily behavior:In light of both psychology and social policy, problems of security have never before weighed so heavily in our collective and individual choices.

National budgets allocate unequalled sums to defense and intelligence services. Almost unknown 20 years ago, a new industry -- private security -- seems to cover all areas of our private and public activities. We submit to its requirements with a disconcerting docility. We travel less by air, we agree to take off our shoes and coats before going through the metal detector and we voluntarily open our suitcases so that strange hands can rummage through our personal effects. Before, we would have been offended.

The entire earth has become a front, each city a battleground, and we are all targeted. Everywhere, man has become aware of the new peril that lies in wait for him and whose name is international suicidal terrorism. Crossing oceans and borders, classes and ethnicities, age and situations, beliefs and doctrines, it no longer expresses itself in a single country -- like Israel, for example -- or in a single form. Its killers have spilled blood in Turkey, Morocco, Thailand and Iraq, in Spain and America. No week goes by without a bomb exploding somewhere, in a street, a market, a school.

Knowing what human beings, who consider themselves civilized and moral, feel for children, how much they love them with all their hearts, the terrorists choose them for their preferred targets. How have men and women been able to taint their consciences if they had one, their souls if they possessed one, to the point of preparing for it, then to physically invade a school, yes, an ordinary school where the hope is that there is teaching, and the joy that is shared from it, to kill so many innocents?

Well,the killers in Beslan, Russia, did it a few days ago. They killed innocent teachers, parents and children. And from far away, watching on television the scenes of horror and despair, we wanted to scream, it was so painful. In the name of what Master of the Universe, in the name of what perverted faith, did they massacre more than 300 human beings? We will never forget the images of the children assassinated by bullets in the back, or simply charred, torn apart and unrecognizable, others frightened and mute, parents crushed by grief.

Of course, on the surface, this crime is not related to what happened in Manhattan in 2001. But, on a different level, everything is related. Jerusalem, Madrid and Beslan -- although the victims are different, the enemy is the same. This is the result if not the lesson of September 11: It has become clear to everyone that it is so simple and easy for contemporary terrorists to take out their frustrations, legitimate or not, and to kill again and again in order to supposedly act on History by pushing it toward the abyss.

In some media circles, they are wrongly called kamikaze. The kamikaze was, toward the end of the Second World War, a soldier who chose to sacrifice himself by attacking strictly military targets. The suicide terrorist of today only attacks innocent civilians, innocent travelers, adolescents seeking love and peace, children and defenseless old people.

It is not that they want to die. Their aim is to kill. They only die to kill better. Conditioned to practice the worship of death, their hopes are only met in death, their god is the god of death. In any discussion of this subject, we have the right to ask ourselves if we are more secure now than before September 11. In other terms, does terrorism today represent, with the passage of time, a greater or less serious threat than before the destruction of the two enormous Manhattan towers? Is the number of terrorists preparing their next crime against humanity growing or decreasing? The political opinions are split on this.

But everyone agrees on this: The democratic countries no longer have the choice of temporizing. They must employ all the means at their disposal to disarm this terrorism, to isolate it and conquer it. They must because our future depends upon it.

A summit conference or a special session of the United Nations to examine this attack on world peace seems to me to be an immediate necessity. Tomorrow, international terrorism may have recourse to the ultimate violence, which is chemical or biological terrorism. Then the threat would be more tangible, more concrete and would put us all in danger. Tomorrow might be too late.

Personally, I admit that since gthat dayh I walk with a heavy heart. With every fiber of my being I feel that the suicidal terrorists are not sleeping in their secret shelters, and are not renouncing their ambitions of hatred, vengeance and domination by the assassination of human beings whom they condemn simply because we refuse resignation as an option.

This option would be the costliest and the most spectacular of their bloody victories. And the most implacable also. Because it will be the reign of terror.

(Translated from the French by Melanie Goodman of

(c) 2004, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Tribune Media Services International.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/10/04)