Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Lessons of September Eleventh

Everybody has their own memories of the infamous events of September 11, 2001. I was working alone in my office when Kimberly called to make me aware that “something bad has happened in New York City.” She told me the media were reporting that a light plane had accidentally crashed into the World Trade Center, and it was on fire. I was concerned, but not yet alarmed.

Minutes later on the radio I heard what had actually taken place – that the strike on the World Trade Center was deliberate and coordinated with other targeted strikes that same morning. It wasn’t until I got home later that I watched the overplayed video loop where the second passenger jet, under control of an Al Qaeda cell, struck the south tower. Shortly after, both majestic towers were reduced to lower Manhattan rubble. I found myself in shock. I didn’t think it would or even could happen. None of us did.

What have we learned in the seven years since we, as a nation, were violated by the savagery of a few phantoms, whose shadowy presence remains despite efforts to erase them? I offer these seven lessons, which are really reflection-points to consider:

First, we learned that we as a nation were vulnerable. Americans’ retained sense of isolation from the problems of the world – an attitude of naivety many non-Americans consider arrogance – was shattered on September 11, 2001. We hadn’t been significantly attacked on our own soil since Pearl Harbor. Terrorism happens overseas! To many of us, it seemed like the end of the world was at hand when we saw the collapse of those towers.

Second, we learned we were strong. Almost legendary recounting of individual acts of heroism filled our collective consciousness. The “Let’s roll” spirit underscored our immediate response to the tragedy. Volunteerism resurged, as local police and other emergency workers took a leave of absence and traveled to New York City to participate in rescue, relief and cleanup.

Third, we learned we have both enemies and friends in this world. I’ll never forget the images of the candlelight vigil in London, attended by grief and tears. Other nations mourned with us. Nor will the images of burning flags or effigies of George W. Bush be easily washed away. Since September 11, 2001 the clarity of the line between friend and foe has been smeared by politics. Our military responses have been questioned, perhaps not without warrant. Yet many have lost sight of the fact that the first 2,975 casualties of the “war on terror” happened before any response could be made.

Fourth, we learned something about Islam. We learned that, like any major world religion, Islam is not monolithic. There is variety within Islam and in Muslim cultures. There are “denominations” and factions which collide, sometimes violently. We learned that not all Muslims are terrorists, rather that extremists would dominate Islam as well as the world, if allowed.

Fifth, we remembered what it was like to be at war again. The 1991 action of “Operation Desert Storm” played out like a reality based video game in the consciousness of many Americans. Real losses were minimal. By contrast, the “war on terror” has reminded us we can field a strong army without a draft. The thousands of volunteers starkly contrasts the hundreds of protesters who will neither fight nor support our national response. I suppose it has been so in every war since the Revolution. Free speech is, after all, distinctively American. Both sides in the counterpoint have reminded us that war costs a lot, and we had better be willing to pay the price than to enter the fray with anything less than 100% commitment and resolve.

Sixth, we just learned in a new poll that many outside the United States do not know who was responsible for the attacks. Conspiracy theories, prejudices and plain ignorance are behind the 54% who responded that the U.S. government, Israel, or “other” were behind the attacks.

Finally, we were graphically reminded that we as a nation are utterly dependent on the grace and favor of God for our very existence. We are contingent. Our walls are not impenetrable. Therefore, we must cultivate faithfulness and justice toward the vision and values that make us great, one of which is humility in knowing that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). We need to bow our knees, individually and as a nation, and ask God to help us do what is right in His eyes, to govern justly and to seek peace on earth for the benefit of all.


Anonymous said...

Very well said Bill. We take our freedom and national pride for granted most of the time. It takes a major event like the terrorism we experienced on Sept. 11th to give us a kick in our complacency. We are spoiled by our society here in the U.S. What we don't usually think about is that our way of life is not the "norm" for everyone, and that there is death, and suffering in many other parts of the world, where freedom is not a human right and life has no value.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this very much, Bill. It's amazing how distant the lessons seem and yet how quickly they come back when we focus our memories on the day itself.

The world is definitely a different place in so many ways than it was on 9/10...

Donika said...

Just finished reading your blog and wow did it remind me of the lessons that we have learned and need to remember. Thanks for reminding us.

Jeff said...

What is amazing to me is how so many Americans were so shocked at the dancing in the streets of Muslim children at the deaths of American civilians, and then, not long afterward, Americans have now come to embrace Islam and even teach it in some of our schools.

True, not all Muslims are terrorists. However, death in a jihad (holy war) is the only way, according to Islam, to guarantee that a person will go to Heaven. This explains how a person could tie bombs on themselves and blow themselves up.

In countries ruled by Sharia law, for a Muslim to convert to another religion (like Christianity) is a capital crime punishable by death (usually by stoning, but I believe hanging or decapitation have also been used at times). They are considered a traitor to their family, their country, and their religion.

Even though kidnapping, human enslavement, rape, and etc., are used in some countries today to force Christians and others to become Muslims, we, as followers of Christ Jesus, are not to hate Muslims, but we are to love them, and to share with them the true light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. For, without the light of Jesus, Muslims are in darkness, and are headed for eternal damnation in Hell.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

I have a list of 37 countries where the Bible is illegal, although, supposedly, there is actually a total of 51 countries where it is illegal to own a Bible.

Jeff said...

Check this out:

Jeff said...

The disturbing reality:
Children's TV programs teaching Muslim children to hate and kill and fight against and wipe out Jews:

Hamas Mickey Mouse Teaches Terror to Kids

Hamas' Children TV with a Terrorist Jew-Eating Rabbit

Iranian Children Show Brainwashes Kids for Death Admiration