At the risk of igniting serious controversy (though limited readership makes that seem unlikely), I’m going to wonder aloud if it’s time for our nation to “move on” from September 11.
On this day thirteen years ago, two planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, a third crashed into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and a fourth crashed onto a Pennsylvania field. A total of 2,999 people died in this tragic event.
Like many, I watched and listened to the news coverage that day and on succeeding days. A friend worked in the Pentagon, and I worried about him and his family, emailing to find out if he was safe. (He was.)
Like many, the church I served re-focused worship for the coming Sunday to reflect on what happened and how we might respond as Christians.
I was gratified to learn of the widespread international outpouring of sympathy, yet dismayed to hear of the prejudice and threats experienced by “Middle Eastern-looking” people in our own country.
I was heartened by the initial responses of our government, welcoming the world’s support, but deeply disappointed with the second (still ongoing) reactions of self-righteous crusading abroad and restricted civil rights at home, counter to the very principles on which our country was founded.
For those who lost loved ones that day, I know it is impossible to “move on,” and I would not counsel them to attempt it. Some of our annual “remembrance,” therefore, may be in sympathy with those who suffered actual loss.
And perhaps – as with, say, a D-Day or Hiroshima observance – it is also appropriate not to lose track of “what happened” and who paid a price.
But for those of us with little or no personal connection to that day’s losses – why act as if 9/11 were the worst thing ever to happen in the history of the human race? We lost hundreds more at the Civil War battle of Antietam, and that’s just American history.
Other lands and peoples have experienced much more and much worse than we. A friend born in Europe used to gripe that Americans have no concept of what it’s like for war to take place within our borders. To many, “American exceptionalism” is more like being spoiled.
I guess my real problem is that the annual call to “remember” just stirs up the jingoistic hyper-patriotism that wants to exterminate everyone not like us – “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” – that still seeks revenge for our wounded pride and violated soil.
That’s really what I want us to move past. Working in a call center in California years ago, I first heard someone respond to a coworker’s self-pitying remark with “build a bridge and get over it.”
There was an opportunity, early on, for us to build bridges across the oceans and with other nations. Sadly, that opportunity was cut off too soon by trumped-up accusations that dragged us into still-unended wars.
But shouldn’t that be what we do – build bridges and cross them – as those who now understand much more clearly the sufferings of others, committing ourselves to healing rather than more destruction?
For those who lost family and friends on 9/11, it may be too early. But for the rest of us, I think perhaps it’s time.