9/11 nine years later

This day, perhaps more than any other for the last nine years, causes a great deal of reflection and emotions for me, as it does for thousands of others across the nation and world. I know I’m not the only one, as I scroll through blogs and status updates reading people’s reactions to this date on a Tuesday not so long ago.

I find myself watching the specials that come around every year, highlighting everything from the engineering and mechanics behind the fall of the towers, the impact of the Pentagon, and the massive kinetic energy generated by a plane being driven into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; to the countless stories told, and sometimes retold, of final conversations with loved ones, and some retelling of the conversations they never had. I’ve lost count at this point of how many times I’ve welled up with tears, hearing the stories, and thinking with appreciation of what I would feel or say if it were me in that interview chair, talking about my wife, children, parents, or brother. Those stories fascinate me. The fortitude that most have when expressing what the day means to them never ceases to amaze me.

I didn’t know anyone who died that day personally. I do know people who have lost, though. A brother who was on the second plane that hit the South Tower. The family member who knew literally dozens of people from the firm Cantor Fitzgerald, who died in an instant when the first plane hit the North Tower, directly striking their floors. This same family member actually received a voicemail from the CFO of Cantor Fitzgerald. See, my family member was supposed to be in New York that week. Even more harrowing, he was supposed to be visiting Cantor Fitzgerald, that week, that day, that hour, performing one of his regular audits of CF. A few weeks before his planned trip, his boss here told him the trip would be delayed until October that year….a trip that would never come. Minutes before the first plane hit, though, came the voicemail. “Hey _____, sorry you couldn’t be out here this week. When you come out next month, let’s grab lunch, would love to see you.” As he watched the towers burned, he retrieved that voicemail, knowing the voice on the recording, the friend he knew along with so many others there, was now silent forever.

What I’ve had the most trouble with in the years since 9/11 has been the politicizing of the event, and the conspiracy theories. In either case, it seems to, in so many ways, cheapen the events of that day. For years, politicians have used the events of nine years ago for political gain, filling their speeches with talk of “defending freedom” and “repaying our attackers”. Conspiracy theorists argue every facet of that day’s events, from a government coverup, to supposed missles on the bottom of planes, to controlled demolitions of the WTC buildings that came down that day. All of it, again, cheapening the hurt, the loss, and the grief experienced by so many people of all nationalities, creeds, and religions.

There is something patriotic about remembering an event that left an indelible mark on a nation. There is something necessary about it as well. To not remember is to minimize the loss of so many of our fellow countrymen, both those who served by running into what everyone else ran away from, as well as those who innocently went about their day, heading off to work to provide for their families, not knowing it was a trip they would not return from. So we should always remember, and we should honor those who are no longer with us.

I’ll close this out with this entry from a year ago. I think it’s important for those of us who walk under the banner of “Christian” to remember.
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Romans 12:17-21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Quote of the day, courtesy of Walter Wink:

“In the final analysis, then, love of enemies is trusting God for the miracle of divine forgiveness. If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one’s oppressors through the prism of the Reign of God – not only as they now are, but also as they can become: transformed by the power of God.”

Wise words to remember today, on both counts.

Take time to say a prayer today; for the families of those who’ve experienced loss, certainly. But also for those who act out in violence, who we cannot see and do not know, but who are in need of God’s grace just as much as you and I on a daily basis.

May the pain of today be transformed in hope for tomorrow; may we share the Source of that hope, with those we love, as well as those who would mean us harm.

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