Message from Elizabeth Birch

As a nation and a community, we are all working hard to comprehend and heal

from the horrific events of Sept. 11. This unimaginable loss has struck at

the very core of our sense of safety and order. Before the tragedy, even on

a good day, many GLBT Americans felt unsafe or at least vulnerable in ways

large and small. Now, that feeling has grown even more acute and has

blanketed the nation. The wounds inflicted on our country will take time to

heal as we struggle to come to terms with the uncertainty at hand.

As we mourn the loss of every life, we note we have lost members of our

community as well. A number of gay people, including members of the Human

Rights Campaign, perished in these terrible tragedies. They include an

American Airlines co-pilot on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon; a

nurse from New Hampshire; a couple traveling with their 3-year-old son. We

grieve for every life lost.

But as we grieve, we should also allow ourselves to be inspired and lifted

by stories of unmatched courage and caring by members of our community who

perished: Father Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department chaplain, who

died while administering last rites to a fallen firefighter, and Mark

Bingham, a San Francisco public relations executive, who helped thwart the

hijackers on the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, thereby perhaps

saving the Capitol, the White House or Camp David. In these ways and in

ways we will never know, so many found courage and strength in their final

moments on earth.

Like others, our community knows all too well the devastating effects of

hate. We have witnessed it firsthand. As a nation, our unity of experience

and our shared pain also gives us the strength that renews our hope for the

future. For some, the struggle to bring America even closer to the complete

dream of equality for all has been a renewing notion. While we deeply mourn

our loss, we must not allow this sacred quest to drift to any distant place

in our lives. It has never been more important to remain strong because at

its core, the very opportunity to seek full equality is what makes this

nation great.

So many people from so many walks of life were caught up in this horrific

web of tragedy. No doubt in those final moments, all differences fell away.

As we heal, we should remember that legacy. In the name of those who

perished – and those they leave behind – we must carry on as a community and

a nation. There is still much work to be done: a global cure for AIDS and

breast cancer, fairness and equity for our families, safety and the

opportunity to flourish for GLBT youth. We will heal as a nation. When we

do, we will be stronger – and perhaps even more forgiving of our

differences.

Elizabeth Birch

Executive Director

Human Rights Campaign

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