As the anniversary date has approached and I've reflected, I have come to this realization: where I was when I learned of the attack is not nearly as important as how I have been shaped by it.
Looking at life ten years later, it could be assumed that not much has changed. Look deeper, though, and there's more depth. September 11th woke me up, in a sense. I was an idealistic youth. In the past ten years, my idealism has been jaded; my false sense of security shattered - and then rebuilt; my worrisome side feared the future (though that wasn't really due to September 11; I worried about the future before).
I still love America. Like many of us, the politics of the last ten years tend to jade us. There is this conflicting view of America - the America of the history books, the 'two Americas' of John Edwards, the tea-party America of personal financial freedom, the liberal America of personal moral freedom - and the bickering in Congress makes you wonder just who "we" are.
On September 11, 2001 in four dramatic, tragic events - those petty bickerings erased. America was us - all of us. America was again, the beautiful, inspiring dream. America gave birth to this reality that we, as human beings, are 'created equal and have a right to life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness.' Individually, we may define these differently - but when this was taken from some of us, we rose up - as one.
In ten years, a lot has happened. We responded, reacted, sought revenge. We bickered. We fought. We disparaged each other.
Every time September 11 rolls around, we were jolted back to that day. The day our world stopped. The day we wondered what the next day - week - month would bring. The day we cried. Prayed. Hugged. Called. Loved. Stopped.
Yesterday, we remembered. We memorialized. We thought. We cried. We prayed. We hugged.
What about today? How will this next decade lived in remembrance be shaped?
As I prepared for church yesterday, I told God about what I was feeling and thinking - and asked him to lead me, teach me through these emotions. His word spoke truth into my heart:
Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Should a man nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?
Should a man refuse mercy to another, yet seek pardon for his own sins?
If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days: set enmity aside.
Remember death and decay: cease from sin.
Think of the commandments: hate not your neighbor;
of the Most High's covenant: overlook faults.
The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.
Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?"
Jesus answered, "No, not seven times, but seventy times seven."
~Parable of the Unforgiving Servant~
Jesus added, "So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters."
Mercy. Justice. Forgiveness.
I am not claiming to have the appropriate response to September 11th - then or now. I simply realized that September 11th caused us to remember something greater than ourselves. Remembering this should lead us to reconciliation. Reconcilaition with our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow Americans who think, act or believe differently.
Showering mercy, grace and forgiveness to all honors those whose lives have been lost - before, on and after September 11th. It honors our heritage as Americans - and God.
God has blessed America - whether we have always responded perfectly is not the issue. He has blessed America - and we have, in turn, been blessed. The issue is our response. When we have been blessed, we in turn must bless.
May our remembrance lead to reconcilation and our reconciliation lead to action.
May Americans bless....