[This is a letter Murphey wrote to his oldest grandson, Conor Piercey, during the week following the atrocities on September 11, 2001. It is written with the idea that an 8-year-old can understand it.]
September 16, 2001
I'm writing this letter just to you, and not to Logan, since he's too young; but it will be for him, too, when he gets old enough to understand what I'm talking about.
I was a year younger than you are now when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Even now, sixty years later, there are the bodies of almost two thousand young American sailors in the battleship "U.S.S. Arizona." If you ever go to Hawaii, you will be able to visit the memorial above the sunken ship.
Such things are horrible, and mean death and destruction, but they also help form the character of everyone who lives through them, especially of an eight-year-old, in your case, and a seven-year-old, in mine. The attack on Pearl Harbor, and the war that followed it, helped center my life on a love for the United States and for everything it had stood for. I hope that as you see the flags people are putting out in front of their houses and see the love they feel for each other, it will be an experience that will direct your life in the same way.
If you were ten years older than you are, you would probably be going off to war soon to fight for this country as a soldier, pilot, sailor or Marine. There is little that is glorious about that, since war again means death and destruction. Those who fight for our country, and who may die or be wounded, are giving up the comforts of life to take on a terrible task. They are like the firefighters and policemen who rushed to help in New York City, and then were killed themselves. They deserve all the honor and love we can give them.
If you are lucky, though, you won't be called to fight for your country. Something like the attack last week may not happen when you are old enough to go to war. What you will be called upon to do then is to live, not die, for the important things in life. Everything you do to make yourself a better boy and to grow into the finest type of man will be your own way of making this world the best possible place for people to live in. But that sort of work is a slow process, and is made up of thousands of little things you will do, such as learning your math well, drawing fine pictures, making yourself strong in sports, loving your mom and dad and brother. Most of the time, there will be nobody there to tell you that you are a hero for doing all that. The reason for doing it will have to come from deep inside yourself . And that is what people call "character."
Your grandmother and I love you and Logan and consider you precious in our lives. We could say to you now that "we wish the world were a better place." But we know that life is beautiful as well as terrible. It's wonderful to see the boys you are, and over the years we will enjoy seeing the men you become.