Whether in New York or the Philippines, in Mumbai, a Madrid subway, a Jerusalem market or on a Russian rail line, terrorists — the agents of death and ruin — are the enemies of us all.
In a park on the New Jersey waterfront, visible along with the Statue of Liberty upon entering New York harbor, there is proof of this understanding of the peril we face in common.
The Tear Drop Monument, presented as a gift to America from the Russian people, is a 100-foot-high, 175-ton steel tower, sheathed in bronze, with a vertical gap in the center as if torn by violence. Suspended in that opening is a 40-foot stainless steel teardrop.
The towering creation was designed by the Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli. A year in construction and dedicated in September 2006, it memorializes those killed in the 9/11 attacks and the earlier 1993 World Trade Center bombing and is a symbol of the struggle against world terrorism.
For much of the post-World War II era, until Mikhail Gorbachev ascended to leadership of what then was the Soviet Union, relations between the world’s two most powerful nations were dangerously uneven.
The U.S. and the Russians had collaborated in defeating the Nazis but afterward glowered fiercely at one another across the wall that divided Europe between free states and captive.
We contended aggressively for influence in the less-developed regions of the world — Africa, Asia and Latin America — often to the disadvantage of the societies we saw as potential prizes.
We filled our respective silos with enough ICBMs to turn the shared planet into a smoking cinder. Then, in the Cuban missile crisis, we confronted one another in a terrifying test of nerves, hesitating only at the very brink of global catastrophe.
Finally — just in time, one is tempted to say — we both seem to have arrived at the conclusion that there can be no sane course but to coexist in relative peace.
Since the 1991 collapse of the USSR, we have explored cautious new areas of cooperation. And we have pooled resources and manpower in a spirit-lifting venture emblematic of the finest questing instincts of our species, the International Space Station.
Still, our perceived national interests are not always, or even often, identical.
For much of this decade we have quarreled over details of the U.S. plans for the creation of a defensive missile shield in Europe.
Currently we’re unable to agree on a strategy for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear strike capability — a development that would further destabilize the Middle East.
But especially since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, awareness of the fast-growing and far-reaching threat of international terrorism has caused a new appreciation of our shared vulnerability to murderous fanaticism. Hatred is no respecter of political borders.
The Tear Drop Monument is surprisingly little known. Our newspaper briefly mentioned its dedication, but it has received scant media attention. I heard of it only this past week from a friend.
The decency of the gesture and magnificence of the monument speak for themselves. And in this season of giving and hope, surely it is a gift worth celebrating.