Friday, September 11, 2009

Two Towers Falling...

This is the eighth anniversary of a tragic day for this country.

Volumes have been, and will continue to be, written about that day and what it meant at the time and what it means for the future. There are memoirs, commission reports, scholarly papers, diatribes, historical essays, and so much more. Much is being said about this event today.

I'd like to make some personal observations on my own feelings about 9/11.

I will never forget the disbelief that our office staff felt as we absorbed the television coverage of what was happening on September 11, 2001. I'll forever remember the contrails looped across the bright sky as all aircraft in the United States were grounded that day. I'll never forget the feeling of national unity that rose out of the ashes of Ground Zero and the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania in the days immediately following the attacks.

Whatever else may be said about Glenn Beck, I think he's on to something with his 9-12 Project. After long years of rancorous political campaigns and caustic political "debates," I would love to see us return to a sense of national unity. It certainly beats what we have now. How far have we come...

One thing that died that day was our sense of where we were in the world. We learned first-hand that there were men out there who wanted us to die. We saw evil in an absolute disregard for the lives of thousands of Americans. We discovered that we were assailable.

We entered a new, darker world that sunny September day.

We're now involved in two wars thousands of miles from our shores. We're learning all over again the lesson of Vietnam--that American power and military might does not make for a quick victory against a determined foe. That we weary as a people of commitments that may last for decades, and at the cost of thousands of American lives.

But there are lessons that Vietnam never taught, lessons that we've learned too well, in my estimation.

We've learned that we can be fearful. It's hard to think that we're the same "land of the free and home of the brave," when fear of someone of a different political position can cause you to attack that person as bitterly as we've seen in the recent healthcare reform townhalls. That's not bravery; that's fear so strong you can smell it, and it stinks.

We've learned that it truly is a global society and economy. Even as our own sub-prime mortgage meltdown and its consequences began devouring our own economy, we saw other countries sink into recession themselves. Even as we begin to see returning financial activity, tentative and unevenly spread, we understand that it may be years before we see a return to levels of employment that existed before the Great Recession.

We've learned that the future may not be as rosy as we had always thought it was. We've lost trillions of dollars of paper wealth in the stock market meltdown; some boomers approaching retirement age have watched their entire nest eggs disappear. Homes have been lost to foreclosure, millions of them. Jobs have been lost, millions of them. Possibilities are being truncated, downsized, and completely eliminated for many people.

Reality is a brutal taskmaster. For all the dislocation and disruption that has occurred, though, isn't it better to face the world as it is, rather than as you wish it could be? 9/11 and its aftermath have helped to clear our eyes.

As dark as this world can be, there remains hope. As a Christian I don't have the option of being a pessimist. By swearing allegiance to the risen Jesus, I've publicly announced that I believe there is a bright future ahead. Even in my darker moments, I can't turn away from that deep abiding faith in the triumph of God over all that separates us from our true home.

I cringe when I hear about suicide bombers in Afghanistan. My heart blossoms when I see my grand-daughter.

I feel sadness for those Americans who have lost their jobs or their homes. I feel hope when I see that the church is helping them to make it to another day, and when the community of faith and its individual members are looking out for their neighbors.

I believe that this dark time will not endure. I believe in the future, regardless of how hard our present is. I pray that we will have the strength and humility and faith to see that future arrive.

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