September 11, 2011
A reflection I wrote on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11
“We are the spirit of God. We are our grandmothers’ prayers, our grandfathers’ dreaming, mothers of courage and fathers of time, daughters of dust and sons of great vision, sisters of mercy and brothers of love.” (Sweet Honey in the Rock)
We need the spirit of God in the world. We need the spirit of humans who are willing to devote their lives to compassion, to work for justice and for peace, and to hold the love of our neighbors, our neighbors here and around the world, as our highest religious value.
This isn’t easy, especially when we are remembering that horrible day when we saw the planes crashing into the towers and so many died. Life has its tragedies of course. People die in floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, in car accidents, and of disease. We grieve at those times, but there is usually no one obviously to blame. These things just happen. When a tragedy is intentional, however, when another human being willingly sets out to cause others immense pain and suffering, it is so much harder to understand.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not the first such events in history, even our own history here in the United States. Oklahoma City and Columbine come to mind. And can we forget the mass lynching of African Americans, the mass murder of the Native American peoples, the shame of the lives lost during the middle passage during the slave trade?
The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in NYC in 1911, where 146 workers died because the owners had locked the exit doors was one of the worst disasters in NYC and it is all but forgotten.
The holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, the Belgian Congo, South Africa, Hiroshima, the Crusades, how can we forget those events and how can we feel alone in our suffering?
How can we forget the murders of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers, of Jesus, and of John Lennon?
How can we stand silent when people are being attacked and beaten in our own state simply because of who they love and who they are?
How can we stand silent about two wars that seem they will never end, wars where there will be no victory, just continued, pain, sacrifice and suffering? Revenge does not relieve pain, it just creates more.
One of the images that has most stayed in my mind from ten years ago is one that is not often shown on television anymore. Some of you probably remember it. Just before the first tower collapsed, people jumped out of the windows. Certain death, I am sure they knew, but it was an action they could take, something they could do. I was most moved by seeing two people holding hands as they fell. Do you remember that? As far as I know they were never identified. How could they be? Two people, maybe they were friends, maybe lovers, or perhaps they were even strangers. Were they a man and a woman, two women, two men, maybe one of them was transgender?
Were they Muslim, Christian, pagan, Jew or atheist? Does it matter? Whoever they were, they each reached out in that moment and held on tight to the other person’s hand. With courage and with faith, they knew they were not alone. They knew what they were holding in their hand was another human being, just like them, another human soul, precious and rare, fragile and miraculous. At the very last minute of their lives, they were holding on to what matters most. They were caring for each other.
That is what matters most. It is what we need to remember when we think about all the times and places where we humans have committed atrocities. None of us are alone. We are all connected. We all have each other, all the hurting hopeful people of the world. It matters. We matter. We just have to reach out and take that hand. Together we can manifest the spirit of God in the world. May it be so, amen and blessed be.