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Reflections on a Year's Journey

Readers, from a Shakespearean actor to a Muslim American, describe how life is different for them since Sept. 11.

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I began twice-weekly training sessions with Enrique, a former marine, at my health club. During our first session, he laced me into boxing gloves and showed me some moves. I slammed a right hook into his glove. It felt great. Then we worked on weights. Now I lift more than Enrique's 16-year-old nephew.

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I'm not sure my being fit will help me to overpower a hijacker. But I sleep better knowing I could get in one good punch.

• Andrea Disario Marcusa is a writer.

Choosing to be

Hollywood, Calif.

Throughout the horror of Sept. 11, I kept thinking of a line from "Hamlet": "Foul deeds will rise, though all the Earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes."

Amid the loss of life, my wife and I focused on providing life. We renewed our commitment to an international adoption.

Meanwhile, the time was out of joint, and I questioned the relevance of going forward with a production I'd been planning of Shakespeare's tale of the melancholy Dane.

But it became obvious that his tragedy of murder and revenge spoke to our post-9/11 melancholia: "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world."

The American psyche had suffered the slings and arrows of most outrageous fortune; healing would come from finding some worthwhile use for the pain. Perhaps the play was the thing after all?

Our production of Hamlet last fall was a resounding success, and helped raise funds for the adoption of our daughter, Grace, from China later this year. She's already brought so much grace into our lives. Sept. 11 taught us once again the answer to the question "to be or not to be." We choose to be.

• Kevin Carr is an actor and director.

A patriot's journey

Pacific Grove, Calif.

Last October while on vacation in Boston, I was feeling discouraged by our government's exclusively military vision of 9/11 patriotism. I decided to seek inspiration at Faneuil Hall, the scene of passionate town meetings during America's revolutionary period.

I arrived as a park ranger was concluding his talk: "Americans believe that we can solve our problems by talking about them. We express our views in a kind of public debate, or discourse, and that's what Faneuil Hall has always been about."

His comment hit home. Our leaders, who were labeling citizen dissenters unpatriotic, had lost sight of the real power of free speech and open debate. Ordinary citizens, myself included, felt scared to speak out.

After my visit, I became a more vocal advocate for civil liberties and responsible international behavior. Last April, I joined a protest march in Washington, where I distributed posters I hoped would encourage others to speak out: "Peace is Patriotic!" each read, on a background of stars and stripes.

On Sept. 11, 2002, I'm still learning how to fight for my country, on my own terms, each day.

• Creighton Peet is a writer.

Explaining Islam

San Angelo, Tex.

As Muslims, my family and I have been moved by the generosity of friends and strangers since Sept. 11.

Civic organizations have asked my wife and me to take part in discourses on Islam. Most people have shown genuine interest in learning about its spirituality and contribution to civilization. People grasp that I can't explain away the inhumanity of some Muslims, just as Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and Sikhs can't explain away the inhumanity of some of their coreligionists.

Truth is that the tormentors of all societies follow the religion of their own making.

• Fazlur Rahman is a physician.