Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Remembering September 11, 2001
When I was coming of age, one was often asked, "where were you when President Kennedy was shot?" For us that bleak November day was a defining moment for our generation. It was the time when innocence was lost, when the world changed into a less trustworthy place. Conspiracy rumors sputtered for years afterwards, the times were unsettled. For previous generations it was the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Stock Market Crash of 1929. For many today their most horrific time was when the events of September 11, 2001 occurred. It remains a day of chaos, incredulity, and tragedy. Few Americans were left untouched either directly or indirectly. As mentioned by President Obama during remarks at the Sunday Kennedy Center memorial concert, who can ever forget the first responders filing into the burning Twin Towers as others were escaping, then suddenly faced with death? Who can deny their selfless response to a sworn duty? I sense that most readers here could mention feeling disbelief when both towers fell. Who did not cry when the towers entombed so many ordinary people? Who has not felt the pain of survivors mourning and looking for loved ones? I know I was moved by the posters and photos on fences and lampposts. I could not help but feel a comradeship with the grief of the families who spent days not knowing but being afraid to find out what happened to their special person. Who has not marveled at the bravery of those passengers who took down a plane in Pennsylvania, rather than see others gravely harmed? Who has not seen themselves in the government and military workers at their desks in the Pentagon, who were in just the wrong place when the planes hit? These victims were all just regular folks, such as you or me, living their lives, most trying to do their best, but cut down too soon in a most improbable manner. I postulate that is why this is so close to us, that these events were not happening in extraordinary times or places.
Sunday, I attended an interfaith memorial service at a local Muslim Community Center as hundreds in my town joined in a spirit of community and brotherhood. People of many nationalities and religions, (Jews, Christians, Muslims and others), offered words for hope and read from religious works with common themes, from prophets writing long ago. Many spoke of peace and understanding and common dreams for a better world. Elected officials mentioned the need for a community to come together, while the religious leaders spoke of the need for all peoples to have peace. Obviously we need more than words. We need hearts and minds to change. We need a government not ever eager to go to war. We need messages of intolerance and actions of hatred to cease. I remember the words of a song, "let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" -- will this ever happen in our lifetime?
Let me hear from you -- how can we start to achieve peace? What did you learn from this day of remembrance?