Everyone who is writing something today is writing about September 11, 2001. On the internet. On TV and Cable. It is one of those pivotal points in our history – like D-Day, or when Kennedy was shot. It was another moment when everything changed, not just for America, but for the world. We were one against terrorism – we were united in our belief that people are, inherently, good, and should stand together against those who are not. The difference between good and evil was never, in my lifetime, so clear.
I was born in New York City and grew up about 25 miles northwest, and a quiet suburb with lots of homes that looked the same. My siblings and I played in the yard, had a dog, went to school – we lived mostly normal lives. We walked to church with the neighbors and played baseball with the kids behind us in the nicer development. In the summer, we walked down our dangerous street with no sidewalk to the community pool. We spent every day, all day – even when it rained – because we had nothing else to do. When I got a job, I missed those pool days, and would drop in after work to show off how much money I had. I stared at girls in bikinis, pretended to smoke a cigarette (I never, actually, inhaled), and grew up. It was life in the New York metropolitan area in the 1960’s and 70’s – life was different then. Different, but not always better. Just different.
I mourn the city that I and all of my friends called “The City”. It was where we hung out and played. I also, to some extent, mourn the America that is no more. We were attacked by terrorists who were angry at us for many reasons, and some of those reasons were understandable – but their attacks were crimes against humanity, and they woke us up to a new way of living and thinking. We have had to look at ourselves more honestly, and we don’t always like what we see. Still, this is an amazing place to live, and I would never want to live someplace else. I am glad that I was lucky enough to be born here, and I am proud of much of our heritage. I am always amazed by the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address. For me, these will always represent the America I dream of, even if it isn’t the America we have.
The Twin Towers were part of the New York City skyline for so long that I still see them when I imagine it in my mind. But things change, and we need to change with them. Instead of looking backwards, and trying to be what America used to be, we should be looking forward and imagining what America might be. I have seen so many things get better – and so many things get worse. I want us to be better – never forgetting the tragic events 19 years ago, but always remembering that it was terrorism that caused it, and not any particular nation or religion. That remembrance will keep us focused on improving who we are. The true America is one that leads to a better future – it doesn’t devolve to a safe – for some – past.
I will be ringing the bells of my church this morning at 8:46, 9:03, and 10:03. I hope you will too – or, at least, take 30 seconds at each ringing to give thanks and remember.
Prayer – Today we mourn, O God, remembering the lives lost and the families and communities destroyed. Help us to remember that our greatness is in our diversity, our freedom, and our commitment to becoming better every day. Amen.
Today’s art is from Skyscraper City.