To Look for America

Author: Carol Szambelan

“And we walked on to look for America,
we’ve all come to look for America."

—Simon and Garfunkel

September 13, 2001

Today as yesterday, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings describe the scene in New York and the reaction around the world, trying to put their words to an American experience we could never imagine.

In the 1960s and ’70s, feeling the strong emotions of our youth, we struggled to understand the way our government was dealing with the war in Vietnam. Alarming numbers of us were feeding the war machine of America, giving our young lives to a war different than the ones our parents described. What was wrong? Why were we not being sustained by our resolve to serve our country? Sadly, some even chose to leave America.

“We walked on to look for America."

John Kennedy fell in front of our eyes as Walter Cronkite reported that the dream that was Camelot had ended. John had a sense of what we wanted to be.

Martin, too, holding our hands as he walked and prayed with us for a future devoid of injustice and inequality, fell.

So many dreams, so many questions, so many sorrows; became the fabric of our lives. We asked ourselves, do we want to bring children into this world? A world which was not of our making.

September 11, 2001

We are now the parents, we are now the politicians, the business leaders, the academy.
We watch and struggle to deal with these terrible events. Together young and old dig through what remains. Heroes of three generations are among us.

“Home of the brave” now has meaning.

“We’ve all come to look for America."

And we see finally, that we can say freely and openly that we want a measured and just response. And we are comforted. The words that would fall on what we thought were deaf ears in the past are falling on the ears of our friends, colleagues, and children now.

We and our children, whose world we could not imagine, watch as around the clock rescue workers painstakingly dig through the shambles of the dreams we have built.

And so we pause to wonder as we realize that America is now us and our children, and their children. What do we think now? Do we feel that we are once again faced with a world that is not of our making?

September 12, 2001

Those of us in the academy here at Notre Dame, some of us fellows who are providing a fertile ground for resolving conflicts between the people of the world through the Kroc Institute, or who are researching new biomedical solutions to illness and injury, other colleagues, friends, come together, prompted by this crisis, to bring our combined knowledge to bear on the present situation. We gather to talk openly and honestly with each other and with our students.

Together we share our sadness, our confusion, and our thoughts; young and old seeking a plan in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We come together to exchange ideas, to grieve and to provide comfort to one another.

Finally, we are all holding hands and walking together; all races, all ages, all religions.

Can something good come of this terrible tragedy? Even among hearts so sorely wounded, I see that it has.

“Call out the instigators,
because there’s something in the air . . .
we have got to get it together
we have got to get it together

—Thunderclap Newman

Carol Szambelan works for the Notre Dame Engineering Library.