Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, will live forever in our memories. That was the day of the unthinkable. Who will ever forget the terrorists attack on our nation — those planes crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and that heroic struggle aboard hijacked United Flight 93 that ended in a fiery crash in the fields of Shanksville, Pa.?
Etched in our memories are pictures of burning buildings, victims, bereaved families, people looking for loved ones, unsung heroes and heroines, blood lines, a nation at prayer, memorial services and a nation responding. We will never forget.
So we paused on Sept. 11, and we pause today, 18 years later, to reflect on the meaning of this horrible atrocity.
Certainly, we are aware that a new normalcy means recognition of our vulnerability. Consequently, we understand, or should understand anew, the value of working together in every aspect of societal life. For many Americans, our anger and grief have turned into resolve to preserve and share our precious heritage.
However, remembering this unfortunate experience does something else. It brings to our minds the tremendous cost of peace. It is easy to be short-sighted, tear down and criticize. Extremism is the “in” thing in our time and unquestionably has “a world of adherence.” Hatred, separatism, alienation and prejudice seem to know no boundaries.
On the other hand, intentionally laboring for peace is difficult. You see, working for peace always includes righteousness and justice and understanding and sacrifice and mercy and the welfare of others.
A careful reading of the Gospels seems to indicate that Jesus thought of his mission in a threefold manner.
1. He had come to announce the arrival of a new order — “the kingdom of God.”
2. He had come to embody the message in his own life.
3. And he had come to distribute the benefits of that kingdom to all humankind. It is hard to imagine those benefits without peace.
So the question becomes, how can we alleviate the conditions in our country and world that create the environment for terrorism? That is where we need to be spending our time and energy.
As I reflect again on this tragedy, three additional thoughts come to mind.
First, God is the source of our strength. Psalm 46 is a psalm of confidence. Undoubtedly, it was written during a time of national crisis. The entire psalm is the plural. “God is our refuge and strength,” (psalm 46:1). I am grateful to God for making this promise to us and for inviting us to put our confidence in him.
Second, we remember that faith is the answer to fear. That truth is spelled out in the old saying, “Fear knocked at the door, faith answered and there was no one there.”
Third, we remember that love is the only real solution. We have to love enough to act on behalf of all our brothers and sisters.
It is my prayer that this special time of remembrance will offer a meaningful opportunity to honor those who died, to receive a word of hope from God and to make a proper response as American citizens.
In conclusion, let’s use Todd Beamer’s famous words that appeared in newspapers all across the country: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll,” he told the other men.
In the name of love, justice and peace, are you guys ready? Let’s roll!