In 9/11 what I had long recognized as my “sheltered life” ended. Many in my generation had suffered from loss or involvement in the Viet Nam war. I had not, but for the bitterness that rose in my throat as the nightly news reported the number of combat fatalities, with a very real suggestion that the higher number of enemy dead was a good thing; I could never accept that. My mother’s generation lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Great Depression. While those in mine have experienced the challenges of both inordinately high inflationary periods and long running recessions, neither mimics the hardships of the depression. I have not known “want” – and until 9/11 had not experienced any direct threat to my freedom and well-being.
I long to find some way to explain the events of ten years ago: if only I – we – could understand, perhaps the nation’s and world’s pain (and subsequent fear) would be assuaged. The mystery of life however seems to be that some things cannot be explained, cannot be laid out rationally. And isn’t it that, the inability to explain, that offers the greatest challenge for us. The one thing I do understand is that no amount of killing others will comfort the bereaved. No number of enemy deaths will bring loved ones back to life or heal the broken hearts and bodies of those who survived.
There is a part of me that wants to turn away or bury my head and not have to confront the memories of this day – in this I am a coward. On the other hand I want to find some way to uncover hope for our tomorrows, not only for us as a nation but as a world-wide family. The stories of those who survived the attacks and those of the family members who died that fateful day, lead me out of my cowardice; and I am thankful. As a person of faith, cowardice is only a fleeting choice. Hope always propels me forward.
Hope takes many forms. Hope takes shape in nurturing relationships with others who do not look, act, or talk like me. Hope is given life in prayer and in community involvement. We see hope bloom into reality in the accomplishments of those whose lives were up-ended on 9/11. The truth is that hope is everywhere, if only we have the eyes to see it, and the hearts to embrace and support it. A life without hope is an oxymoron.
Yesterday I led a short worship service at an assisted living facility here in Reading. I included these words in our prayer: This is a heavy week, filled as it is with anticipations of reliving yet one more time the horror that was 9/11, now ten years ago. We will be subjected to replays of films which will tear at our souls and open unhealed wounds. Tears will flow yet again for all that was lost, for all who were lost, and for the family members of those who died in planes, buildings and in heroic efforts trying to effect rescue. We pray for the healing of nations; we pray for the healing of citizen rivalries too often centered around differing cultures, backgrounds or religious beliefs. Help us to remember the pain of this day so that we are encouraged to build a better, a more hopeful future for ourselves and for those who will follow. May our pain give rise to hope, and to your kingdom on earth.