There are events that are forever etched into our memories. Events that simply recalling the event, or the date, takes us back to the moment when we first heard the news. For many of our elders it was the attack on Pearl Harbor, for my generation it was President Kennedy’s assassination, or Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. We can instantly recall where we were and/or what we were doing. September 11, 2001 is another such event. I was serving as the Vicar of St. Alban’s Church in Chiefland. I remember vividly watching in stunned silence as the airliners flew into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and the equally frightening news of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon. The day was a blur between planning a prayer service at St. Alban’s for that evening to numerous phone calls from my Army Reserve unit informing us that we were on alert and be ready to report within twenty-four hours. My daughter, Lora, was a freshman at Florida Southern – that created another set of concerns for Lynn and me. The list goes on.
Here we are twenty years later, and the memory of that day is still painfully seared into our consciousness. I found watching the programs recalling that day on the History Channel overwhelming and difficult. So, here we are on the morning after wondering what does it mean?
One of the greatest gifts God has given to us is the gift of memory. It sustains our relationships and reminds us that ultimately, we are never truly alone. It has the ability to keep us alive and out of harm’s way. Our memory is at the core of our education and learning. In other words, memory is necessary for our survival and wellbeing. Our collective memory has become distorted. The pervasive overwhelming unity that marked the days and weeks after the attacks is gone. The common sentiment was, “We are Americans!” Now we are more divided that ever – hate has become the driving force in our communal life and our politics. This is NOT the Gospel of Jesus that we are called to live out and live into. The call to love is stronger than ever, if we are willing to listen.
It’s important that we remember the events of September 11, 2001, and even more important that we learn from those events. It’s important that we remember those who died, not only those who died on that horrible day, but also those who lost their lives in the twenty-year conflict that followed. Most importantly, we need to remember in order to work toward preventing future tragedies like this from happening again. We need to remember who we are, and more importantly whose we are, and live accordingly. We are being called to once again proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.
So, on this morning after, let us be about the work of reconciliation and peace, which is at the heart of the Gospel.