Twenty Years On
It's a daunting task to sit down at the keyboard and attempt to write something meaningful on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. There is so much that has been said over the past two decades and that will be said today by voices more eloquent than mine that I do not know if I have anything to add. So instead, I thought I would share with you some of the feelings that are coming to me in this moment.
Grief. My heart is heavy in thinking about this day. There is too much death: close to 3,000 on September 11th, over 170,000 in the Afghanistan War, and we are still not sure how many died directly or indirectly in the Iraq War, but many estimates conclude a number higher than the loss of life in Afghanistan. This does not include the first responders and those at ground zero who have since died due to exposure to toxic elements. The numbers are staggering and I grieve.
Disillusionment. Twenty years ago I was visiting a friend in New York. In the late morning, I met her at her work in Midtown and we walked the thirty blocks back to her apartment. A strange quiet blanketed the Upper East Side. Some people were huddled on stoops, gathered around radios, others were walking home as we were, and many just seemed lost. But, there was a feeling of solidarity suffusing the nearly vacant streets. People nodded silently to each other or quietly asked if anything else had happened.
This feeling was not limited to New York. Over the next few months, we as a country put aside our differences and cared for each other. We came together, our hearts united. And yet, today we are more divided than we have ever been. We are a polarized country, more ready to rant and rave than to engage in meaningful dialogue. Too often we vilify instead of listening to each other with openness and compassion. The unity we experienced in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 has completely evaporated.
Hope. I want to say hope. I want to feel hope, even if I'm not sure I do. But, maybe an amorphous hope. The hope that things can always get better; the hope that redemption is always possible; the hope that God see us and loves us. The hope that Christ who was raised from the dead continues to offer new life even in the midst of grief and disillusionment.
While not a coherent train of thought, this is some of what I am feeling this day. I encourage you to pay attention to what you are feeling and to pray through those emotions as they come.
The final thing coming to me as a sit with my laptop is the prayer attributed to St. Francis:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
I pray that you find solace and strength and hope as you remember this day. I pray that God's peace will fill the earth. I pray that the divine will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.