Reflections on September 11, 2002

There is a banner attached to the side of the deep cavern that is Ground Zero. It reads, "We will never forget." I overheard a newscaster speaking what might be done with those acres of land where the World Trade Center once stood. Some hope that a memorial park will be developed "so that we will never forget."

I cannot imagine ever forgetting that fateful day. The images haunt us, relived again and again on television and radio, endless books, magazines, and e-mail photos. The news broadcasts of the Middle East make us hold our breath and pray that there will be no more tragedy, terror and anguish.

No. We will never forget because we are all eyewitnesses. We will never forget because we daily experience the effects upon our lives, our families, our nation, and our world. We are the ones who lost loved ones. It is said our world has changed forever. For those of us alive today, we could see it that way. No longer are we naVve, no longer are we blinded to the pain of worldwide anger and suffering. We now feel the effects that a bombing leaves behind. We now know something of what the world on the other side of the ocean has experienced and some continue to live with daily - fear of death and destruction. No longer do we feel secure.

No, we will not forget, but the day will come when 911 will join the long list of horrific events in the history books. Oh, yes, students will memorize the circumstances. Soldiers will increase their readiness for a different kind of war. But the raw pain of the open wound will eventually subside. We will develop scar tissue that will cover the intensity of fear, the desire to regain security through revenge, retaliation, and retribution. The cry for justice will not echo quite as loudly. The determined volunteers will eventually stay home. And our children's children will not understand why grandpa gets so angry on September 11.

I was born in 1949 and I "remember" nothing of WWII except the air raid drills and the occasional defense plane flying over. I know of the millions of Jews who lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps. But I do not remember the dreadful pain of being rounded up, herded like cattle into railroad cars, stripped and thrown behind barbed wire fences. Never seeing loved ones again.

I do not remember the anguish of radiation burns nor the 140,000 people who died from that first hydrogen bomb, nor the 60,000 buildings destroyed in a three mile radius in Hiroshima, Japan.

I do not remember trudging the long miles after we were torn from our lands and marched to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

I no longer remember what it was like to lie in the ocean trying to cool the fever of measles that the missionaries brought to our island. Once we numbered a million. In less than a century we were but 138,000.

I can no longer hear the screams of my friends, my children as the traders of humans disembarked from their ships with their rifles and guns. We ran, we hid, but we were eventually dropped into the cargo hold of that ship. The hatch closed and we stood in darkness. 3,953,696 men, women, and children slaves in America in 1860.

Around 722 BC Samaria fell. The Israelites were deported into Persia and colonists from Babylonia, Elam and Syria were moved in to take their place.

701 BC. Sennacherib entered Judah, ravaged the country, 46 major cities were turned over to Assyrian friendly nations and their people deported.

In 587BC Jerusalem fell and all the families of scholarly, economic or political importance were marched to Babylon to remain in exile for their entire lives.

I cannot hear their shouts, I cannot feel their agony. I have no memory of these events. I only know that they happened. Statistics tell me how many and when - but I am not touched, I do not cry until I see the faces of the sweaty, dirty, exhausted rescue workers carrying out the injured and dying. I do not cry until I see the anxious faces waiting and waiting for news. Then history resonates with something tragic in my life. Then I re - member! Then the tears stream down my face. Then I feel the hollow space in the depths of my being. Then I remember the tragedy that is humanity's great inheritance. Sin. Oh, how far I have wandered away from my God.

And yet, God has not allowed that. God keeps pace with me, stands with me, supports me. It was as if in that instant as we all stood aghast, that the Holy Spirit soared aloft shouting "Wake up, Wake up! See what your ways have allowed. This is not what I created you for! Take up your cross and follow me!" And they did. Thousands of people streamed onto that site searching for, caring for, and praying for. Thousands and thousands more poured in supplies and financial support. As we saw the faces of the men and women carrying victims and fellow co-workers out of that burning disaster, I saw the anguished face of Christ upon the cross. I saw the disciples carrying the body of Jesus away from the cross and into the waiting arms of his mother sobbing in sorrow. Some may call it the spirit of patriotism - of America. But I would challenge you to call it what it truly is. Jesus - alive!

So tell me again how our world has changed. Is it the world? No. Our world continues to throb with the pulse and rhythm of violence and peace. Violence and peace. We still answer aggression with more hatred and anger. We still commit crimes against our fellow citizens. Men, women, and little children are sadistically abused and murdered every day. People still die of starvation, of incurable diseases. Not everyone has an opportunity to earn a living wage. No, our world has not changed. - - - - - - I have changed. You have changed. But the question is . . . how?

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