I had never before taken much interest in him one way or the other. I think my father gave me the book because it's a man's reflections on aging (I recently turned 40) and on coming to terms with death, the world's stubborn imperfectibility, and life's limitations. Horowitz reflects movingly on Pascal's Pensees and boldly and persuasively connects the personal theme of his own prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment with the contemporaneous global political event of the World Trade Center attack.
And he connects the terrorists' motivations with those of his own father, a believing socialist and tacit apologist for Stalin:
Like Mohammed Atta we long for the judgment that will make right what is not. We want to see virtue rewarded and the wicked rebuked. We yearn for release from the frustrations and disappointments of an imperfect life. … Like my father, I once thought I knew the answers to unanswerable questions, and allowed myself to dream impossible dreams. But one day these dreams brought tragedy to my door, and I put away the illusion for good. Whoever asks how Mohammed Atta's awful deed can be linked to decent people has not understood the deed, or who they themselves are. Ask yourself this: Up to the last act of Mohammed Atta's life, would he have been judged an evil person? No one who actually knew him thinks so. … He appears to have been an ordinary man who was seduced into committing a great crime in the name of a greater good.