Today marks the end of the first decade since the events of September 11, 2001. So here we are, ten years after, as we stop for a moment on our day of rest and remember the most horrifying event of our time. With that, we also reflect on the events that have transpired, remember those we lost, and ask ourselves the uncomfortable question of what lies ahead. Safe to say, we view our world as far more uncertain than we did before that day.
It has been said many times that September 11th is one of those monumental moments of history that reaffirms the sad and undeniable fact that evil exists in the world, that there exists among us those who will go to great lengths to tarnish this quiet bargain that we have made with one another to get along and be good to our fellow man. Like Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination and The bombing in Oklahoma City, this is one of those events that marks history and changes how we look at ourselves and the state of our world. Or, as one journalist put it: “It divides history into ‘before’ and ‘after'”
The towers themselves were completed in 1976. Within their 25 year lifespan, they had become a symbol of man’s insatiable desire to reach higher. It was a beautiful and ridiculously tall structure that reflected the city around it in its windows, a mountain of glass and steel, of architecture and simplistic design . . . and they made two of them! After September 11th, the towers would become a symbol of our vulnerability, a symbol of our deepest fear, a symbol of blame, of anguish and of deep reflection. Their tragic end came only eighteen months into this new millennium; Eight years after a botched attempt to blow up the World Trade Center; six years after a similar tragedy in Oklahoma; and only three months after we put the man responsible for that tragedy to death for his crime.
On that September day, and throughout the sad months that followed there was a sense of confusion and disbelief. These things just don’t happen here. Not in America. We aren’t use to chaos and terror on a grand scale. We get hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, but not this. Until that day, no foreign entity had attacked the American citizenry on our own soil within our lifetime. It shook our faith that we were immune to such disasters. No one wants to believe that the world is that random.
What impressed me about the whole thing though, was a process that began on September 12th. America went back to work. We went back to our lives and just keep on rolling. We cried, we hurt, we mourned, but we got up every morning and put our feet on the floor and kept going. That is uniquely American. We have suffered before but it only makes us love our country all the more. Lives can be taken, buildings can be knocked down, evil men can triumph, but no one can take away our spirit. We’re Americans. We’re made of some pretty tough stuff. There’s just no one else like us on earth.
Today, I feel a sadness as I reflect on that tragedy, but as I do I also turn my mind to something else, to the strange and somewhat naive reminder that despite such a tragedy, the world doesn’t stop spinning. Life goes on and so do we. September 11th is one of those tragic events that will be etched in our memories until all who were there are dead and buried. But we move on.
There is a singer I have come to admire. He is a Hawaiian singer who went by the name of Iz. He was the man responsible for that lovely ukulele rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. He passed away in 1997 and there is an inscription at his grave that today seems fitting, and a little bit comforting:
Facing the future I see hope
Hope that we will survive
Hope the we will prosper
Hope that once again we will reap
the blessings of this magical land
For without hope I cannot survive
Remember the past
but do not dwell there
Face the future
Where All our hope stands.