Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

     Like other people around the world, I spent some time this morning remembering another September morning 11 years ago.  It was a beautiful, crisp day just like today, with blue skies and just a few clouds drifting lazily across the vastness.  Against the backdrop of that beauty, planes flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and created a huge crater in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  What started out as a beautiful morning turned into a nightmare.

     In the days and weeks that followed I don't know anyone of comprehending age who wasn't affected by this terrible act of evil and violence in some way.  Even my daughter, Phoebe, not quite three years old, seemed to grasp that something very bad had happened.  I came upon her one day playing with her blocks, building them into two tall towers and reassuring them in her sweet little voice, "Don't worry towers, I won't let planes crash into you."

     Slowly, painfully slowly, life settled back into some semblance of normalcy.  Although I think what we considered normal before September 11th has been inexorably changed.  As the first anniversary of the attacks drew near, I watched a PBS Frontline special about that day that focused specifically on the question of "where was God?"  When the unimaginable happens, where is God?  How do we use or lose our faith?

     Clergy, theologians and scholars from the three major Western religions -- Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- were interviewed.  While I thought the entire program was powerful and well done, one scholar's words remain with me to this day.  I no longer remember who the person was who said them; nor can I give you an exact quote.  But my paraphrase is this.

     It took years of calculated, detailed planning, study and strategy to bring about the evil unleashed on that day.  Years.  But the good that came in the form of response was instantaneous.  Good in the form of the emergency responders and in the passengers on an airplane and in the everyday person who risked his or her life to help someone else.  When evil struck with all its power, good responded.  Without planning or forethought, good stepped up.

     I find hope in that.  I'll never forget that terrible day.  Nor will you.  But I find hope in the certainty that even when we see the worst that humans do to humans, we also see the very best.  But I wonder if we can leave good to chance.  I don't mean that ordinary people aren't good in their everyday lives.  They are.  I still believe that most people just want to live life in the best way they know how, without malice towards others.  But maybe we can't wait for a horrific attack, a natural disaster or any crisis, large or small, to bring out our deep seated goodness.  Maybe we need to plan and strategize and study and calculate good with as much attention to detail as was given the evil of September 11th, 2001.  Maybe what we can do to continue honoring the memories of the thousands who lost their lives that day, and support the families and friends who soldier on, is to plan for good.  Maybe our good must become proactive.  Maybe it is the only way. 

In loving memory of all those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001

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