Just as with countless others, I too find the anniversary of September 11th to be a challenging day. My own life and my family’s were profoundly affected on September 11. And whilst I certainly don’t dwell on it, hardly a week or two passes when my memory is presented with numerous mental snap-shots of that day.
Some might suggest that the fact I learned about what was happening at the World Trade Centre and Pentagon even before the pilots of our American Airlines flight is unfortunate. Actually, I feel it was a gift in a way, for it allowed me to move very quickly into acceptance, and assist the flight crew and several passengers through the most concerning, yet understandable decisions being made by the captain and later in Canada, the distraught and frightened people in my hotel.
Throughout the days that followed, when it was impossible to reach my family in England, it brought for me a sharp focus the realisation of what we should always hold dearest and most precious.
What was forefront in my mind were the snippets of news articles, where stunned and traumatised people were relating the last seconds of phone calls they had with people trapped inside the World Trade Centre, following the first and second impacts.
Above and below the impact points, as the spectre of death was imminent, many people telephoned their spouses, parents, children, friends and family members not to say goodbye, but ‘I love you.’ And humanity could never dispute there are countless unsung heroes who perished, who set aside their own fears to help calm others. During those brief seconds, all those lives focused on what really matters; Love.
Positions, job titles, possessions- they were now insignificant. In fleeting seconds, the true essence of living, of life, of all our existence, was stripped to its rawest form. The women and men; the clerks, directors, flight attendants, managers, cleaners, cooks, waiters, pilots, waitresses, firemen, medics, any one of them, whether at the World Trade Centre, Pentagon, or aboard the four doomed aircraft, any one of them would have traded everything they had for life. Everything!
When death was falling upon Jesus, He looked down from the cross and saw His mother and his dear friend, the disciple John.
‘Woman, here is your son,’ He said. And to John, ‘Here is your mother.’ (John 19:26-27). Seven years ago, these are the same words echoed by those who phoned their loved ones: ‘I love you, take care of each other: be a family.’ They are also the words of all faiths: love, compassion, and forgiveness. People hunger for this message. We want to know what is important in life, what it takes to make a difference. Is my faith enough? What about the things I have done wrong, will I find forgiveness?
The message of Christianity speaks of the worth of every individual, of forgiveness, and of the sweetness of life that overcomes death. Jesus is constantly transforming us, moving us to the centre of our being, where His image is most beautiful and precious. It is from this spiritual centre, that God is sending us to the outer limits of our capacity to love.
The World Trade Centre stood as a beacon to people all over the world. It reflected both the rising and setting of the sun and countless memories of happier times. Whether it was falling in love at Windows on the World, or a child’s holiday trip to one of the world’s tallest buildings, or the countless transactions that travelled from around the world into the fibres of the Twin Towers, the image was indelibly etched into our minds and hearts.
In the aftermath of its collapse, our emotions reflected anxiety, fear and sadness. But we were also able to celebrate through the countless heroic efforts that continue to reveal the absolute goodness of God inherent in every individual.
One of the most essential roles of our Christian lives is to find within the fractured existence of humanity, the image of God waiting to be released. It is to find within the often complex and difficult emotions of division, anger, and animosity the seeds of reconciliation.
My greatest prayer during all uncertain times is that we seek to maintain a spirit of reconciliation, a posture of openness and a respect towards one another. Whether it is America, Britain, or any country on this planet, where the freedom of democracy reigns, we must be nations where people who hold different opinions can express their thoughts and feelings without fear of ridicule, or rejection.
None of us possesses absolute truth. However, all of us need to listen and speak across our often passionately held beliefs. This is not a call to agreement, but to respectful listening. In the past, we have not done this very well.
In a world beset by religious and ethnic strife, the Christian must take the risk of following Christ into the heart of saint and sinner alike, of friend and stranger, of the beloved and the enemy.
In his first letter, John reminds us, ‘Whoever says, I am in the light; while hating a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light.’ (John 2:9-10) Together, we must live into this teaching, or together we shall shrink into the dark shadows of further racial, religious and ethnic divisions.
Today, we pray for the souls lost in this tragedy. We pray for those who bear the responsibility of governmental power, that they use that power wisely.
We pray for the children whose lives continue without a parent, for those who are still mentally locked in the events of that day, unable to climb from the abyss.
We pray for all who have suffered because of aggression. We pray for all those whose lives have been affected by conflict and aggression. And we pray Lord, that You guide each of us to actively invest our lives to always seek to find peace.
Loving and life giving Lord, we pray for all those who lost their lives on the morning of September 11. We pray that Your love touches the families and all who suffered as a result of this tragic event. We pray too, Lord, for those who sought to use evil to impose their own misguided values. We pray that all who seek to commit crimes of violence and aggression are intervened by Your love and tenderness towards all Your children, that they may use their lives for goodness instead. Amen
Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, Just as God in Christ also forgave you. St. Paul to the Christians at Ephesus