Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Remembered

This morning, as I drove Ethan to school, I was remembering where I was eight years ago when the attacks came. I was in the hospital. I had just given birth to Ethan the day before....not even 24 hours. My physician had come in to check on me and had said we were just attacked by terrorists as he turned on the t.v. In my state of semi-consciousness and sleep depravity I thought he said, "We were attacked by Paris." I sat up and as I rubbed my eyes, I saw the second plane hit the second tower. I sat bewildered wondering what I had just brought my new son into.

I can remember my parents discussing where they were when they learned that John F. Kennedy had been killed. These are moments seared in memory and transformative in the tragic pain of a nation. I suspect that is how my grandparents felt when they learned about Pearl Harbor.

It seems like just yesterday this tragedy occurred. I was just wondering how we should regard the tragedy of September 11, 2001 eight years later? Certainly we should be respectful of those whose grief was so great that is seems more like yesterday than eight years past. They deserve our prayers and tender thoughts. We also should remember those whose lives were cut short that day. Their deaths deprive us all of the promise of their lives. In addition, I think eight years is long enough to gain some perspective and to ask some of the tough questions we were not able to ask in the pain and shock of the moment. You know the questions; they have lingered at the edge of your consciousness for a long time. Maybe you even dared to ask them in the presence of people you trust enough to be vulnerable with. However, the tough questions have never been asked aloud in the public discourse of this nation. Now an atmosphere of partisanship has been created that will ensure that any politician who dares to engage the tough issues is certain to be painted as unpatriotic and un-American.

Eight years ago, the world rallied to our side. "Nous sommes tous Americans"—We are all Americans—read the headlines in French newspapers. Could different leadership have brought the world together to address the core issues that feed terrorist hatred or that create the conditions in which it flourishes? Would Muslim extremists find recruits or an audience if the world regarded Western nations as kind, benevolent and generous rather than as selfish, materialist consumers?

I guess the hardest question of all on this anniversary is this: Did we end up with the leaders we really deserve? I know that true transformation must begin within. Tragedies can be the motivator to change, or they can reinforce our defensiveness. Which one happens is always our toughest choice.


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