"We're told that they [the terrorists who hijacked the planes and flew them into the World Trade Center towers] were zealots, fueled by religious fervor. Religious fervor. And it you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any sense to you? Will that make any goddamn sense?"
Why is this my favorite, most memorable bit of video, from the no doubt millions of hours of footage, news, and commentary from the hours, days, weeks, and months which followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? Partly because it's David Letterman, a man whom, though I hardly ever watch his show anymore, once had a big influence on my outlook on life. Partly because I can appreciate it on the meta-level; I can see David Letterman, the man, struggling to speak beyond "David Letterman," the personality, though not fully escaping him, because the personality and the man are too closely entwined, and besides, the man knows that it's the personality that people want and expect to see. Partly because Letterman is one of the quintessential voices of New York City; his love and sorrow for his city is real, and that comes through. But mostly, I think, because it's so very, very much of the moment: a moment of sadness and fear and confusion and resolve, a moment desperate for direction and leadership (Letterman's, in retrospect, over-the-top praise for Rudy Giuliani isn't at all much different from the way most of us in those days were looking all our elected leaders and suddenly seeing, because we wanted to see, more than was actually there), and most of all, a moment of realization that, when tragedies strike, you're probably just going to have to make up your own kind of courage, as you go along.