A message to members and supporters of Amnesty International from
Bill Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA:
September 17, 2001
Sometimes death comes in the dark, in the dead of night. But not
this time. This time the day could not have been brighter or
Sometimes death comes when we are by ourselves. But not this
time. This time it came to those who were surrounded by friends
Sometimes death comes on a battlefield or in a prison cell. But
not this time. This time it came in commercial airplanes and
pleasant office buildings.
And sometimes death comes after a long struggle and much
anticipation. But not this time. This time it came in an
instant. And it appears to have swept in its wake family members
of our staff and volunteers, friends of members of our Board and
doubtless a good many Amnesty International members themselves.
Now that it has, you and I have work to do. Not the kind of work
that sorts through rubble or loads up body bags, thank God.
Those who do that work deserve a thousand tears of gratitude.
Our work is of a different order but just as important
nonetheless. The work of anger, to be sure, but an anger
tempered by wisdom. The work of grieving, absolutely, but a
grieving that pays homage to suffering. And the work of justice,
no question about it, but a justice of which every one of us can
To get to grieving, we must go through anger. And to get to
justice, we must go through grieving. Because, as the theologian
Sam Keen so eloquently put it, "Every day we are not mourning is
a day we will be taking vengeance" and vengeance is different
Those who died on September 11 represent the best that is in us
as human beings, as citizens and as a people. The best that is
in us knows that individuals are responsible for this crime --
not anonymous masses of people. The best that is in us knows that
the guilty deserve to be punished -- not those who share their
names or their language, their skin color or their religion. It
knows that blind hatred corrupts the hater. It knows that the
greatest power evil has is to entice the innocent to mimic its
practices. It knows that every action has unintended
consequences. It knows that the truly strong never forget that
in the heart of every stranger lurks a reflection of our own.
Those who died on September 11 represent the best that is in us,
the calling of our highest selves. We owe them anger; we owe
them grieving; we owe them justice. But everything that we do
now must reflect the best, not the lowest, of our humanity. We
pay those precious souls their rightful tribute only by leveling
a wise justice, only by exhibiting a tender righteousness. We
pay them tribute only by understanding what brought about their
deaths and hewing to those principles that call us to a more
Toward those ends, Amnesty International will mourn the victims;
we will speak out against impunity for the perpetrators; we will
demand that those innocent of crimes be protected and respected;
and we will insist that justice is not justice if it fails to
adhere to international human rights norms. Both the
International Secretariat of Amnesty International and we in
AIUSA have appointed Crisis Response Teams to work together in a
coordinated, unified response to this tragedy and its aftermath.
We will be determining as soon as possible how best our
membership can help advance our common goals.
For death has come in an instant. And now there is work to be