Saturday, September 11, 2010

Seven Lessons of September Eleventh


Note: This is a re-post from 9/11/08

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.

1 comment:

Virginia said...

This past week I find this is exactly what I am being call to do. Through LOVE that I am accessing from God, I am to be a living vessel for my neighborhood Church. I now know I do need to 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 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. Thank you for this posting I am going to meeting this morning at 11:00 to meet with Pastor. Pray for the words that come out of my mouth to be of Love, of Jesus, of concern for the above, and fully inspired by our Lord.