As the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States nears, Daniel Chavez Moran remembers the victims and their still grieving families from all across the Americas. He was touched by the remembrances recently shared by Colin Powell, the former United States Secretary of State, who was in Lima, Peru, on that fateful day to attend a meeting of the Organization of American States, the 34 democratic nations of the Americas.
Secretary Powell’s reflections as printed in the July/August 2011 issue of Americas, an official publication of the Organization of American States:
...Early that morning, I was having breakfast at the home of President Alejandro Toledo. There were eight of us at the round breakfast table and we were discussing, of all things, cotton textile quotas. President Toledo was anxious for the United States to improve the quotas for Peruvian textiles. Suddenly, my assistant came into the room and handed me a note saying a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. We didn’t know if it was an accident, a mad man, or a terrorist attack. A short while later he handed me a second note which said that another plane had crashed into the second World Trade Center tower. It was definitely a terrorist attack...
At the conference, my colleagues extended their condolences and promised support in responding to the crisis. I thanked them and said the best immediate support they could provide was to pass the Democratic Charter so terrorists would see that we remained steadfast to our principles, even in a time of tragedy. The Charter was passed by a vote of acclamation.
In the ten years since, the Charter has grown to become a defining standard of democratic ideals in the Americas. Just before leaving the conference on the morning of 9-11, I made a statement that ten years later seems as relevant today as it was on that fateful day:
“A terrible, terrible tragedy has befallen my nation, but it has befallen all of the nations of this region, all the nations of the world, and befallen all those who believe in democracy. Once again we see terrorism, we see terrorists, people who don’t believe in democracy— people who believe that with the destruction of buildings, with the murder of people, they can somehow achieve a political purpose. They can destroy buildings, they can kill people, and we will be saddened by this tragedy; but they will never be allowed to kill the spirit of democracy. They cannot destroy our society. They cannot destroy our belief in the democratic way...”