The following was written on the one year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks… September 11th, 2002.
As I read this I find it still ring true for me, and yet it echoes a concern for who we are today…
September 11, 2002
In reflection of all that has come to pass, and with hope in all that can potentially be, I have slowed my world down today, to observe. I have witnessed emotions’ range and have felt the deepest sincerity in all that I have taken part in. For me, this one-year milestone, of the tragedies of September 11 2001, has left me with a longing that I must share.
This morning’s sunrise was quite profound. As I sipped my coffee, looking eastward out of my breakfast nook’s window, I was greeted with a broken sky and the rosy edged clouds from last night’s rain. Gray and gentle giants stretching toward the eastern horizon, gently kissed by the dawning sun. The sky held the deepest blue and set my view in a very powerful background, providing a triumphant and yet foreboding setting for the red, white and blue of the morning. My mood seemed to match, as I felt reassured by our nation’s collective resolve exhibited over the past year, and yet I felt apprehensive in the light of on-going struggle. As I sat in silent reflection, the words of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address played through my mind. “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” I sat mesmerized.
My radio was on in the background, and as if called by my own will, New York’s Governor Pataki initiated the memorial service at ground zero with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The clouds outside my window seemed to change their color in response to his words, providing a balance of gray and white, while the sky’s deep blue lightened a shade, yielding a canvas for hope.
Moments later, former Mayor Giuliani began reading the names of the victims of the attack on the world trade center towers. Gordon McCannel Aamoth Jr., Edelmiro (Ed) Abad, Maria Rose Abad, Andrew Anthony Abate, Vincent Abate, Laurence Abel, William F. Abrahamson, Richard Anthony Aceto, Heinrich B. Ackermann, … The victim’s faces, those I could recall from the web pages I perused last year, began to drift through my mind’s eye. The tears began to come and I began to realize how much we have lost. Lost lives, broken families, and lost loves. As a nation, we are different now. We have realized, most likely for the first time that we are not an island of security. That our financial and military power is not what differentiates us, but that which makes us unique, and subsequently, that which poises us as a target of such acts of terrorism. I also realized that we have gained. For through our learnings of such experience, we have found a new resolve that echoes old values, such as those our very nation was founded on. And in such, we have gained temperate understanding of just how precious this life truly is, and how diverse and distressed our world society has become. In this, I believe, we can proudly say that we stand alone among our allies and enemies, for our nation exhibits a worldly sampling of all nations, all cultures, and all beliefs. Our lives and values are based in true freedom, founded in trust and honesty, and are exhibited through peace and compassion. And in such, we extend a greater love through our exhibition of this understanding. This diversity is of our design, driven by our desire, and forms the very mettle that identifies Americans as people of natural determination and resolve.
And yet, we are a delicately contrary people. For as we stand upon the virtue of such great values, we allow our gains and successes to wrap us in what we perceive to be our own personal, impervious lives. In times when our successes are at their greatest, and our challenges small, we exhibit an almost ignorant selfishness. We ignore our neighbors, we throw frustration upon our fellow citizens in traffic, and we seem to migrate to a gluttony of extremes. Our drive is focused upon financial growth, more service, less cost, and a need for exponential improvement. I believe that our behavior, associated with such perceived successes, is the very element that fuels the hatred of those we call our enemies today. Ironically, it is this same behavior that was once perceived to be the enemy of our nation’s founding fathers, and to that point, that which has brought us to this day of memorial. How ironic.
The radio’s reading of the names of the lost was only interrupted long enough for other memorials to begin, or for moments of silence to be observed at the very minute, one year ago, when the trade center towers collapsed. Three very distinct and individual memorials, New York City, the Pentagon, and Shanksville Pennsylvania, yet all rang with names of victims, lost lives, lost loves, and broken families. Tragedies beyond belief. Through the constant of remembering, through the tears and tightened throat of reliving the pain and horror, I made my way to a place in my town where Mozart’s Requiem would be played as part of a rolling national endeavor to promote healing and remembrance.
The daylight moved to deeper tones of color. The low hanging clouds grew gray, yet the daylight beyond became brighter and more brilliant with blue. Even a few little spits of drizzle managed to mix in. All seeming to reflect my mood, and hopefully the moods of others. Others who, like myself, were needing to reconnect, acknowledge the pain and loss, and take from that, some magic and secret element to fuel understanding for the world we now live in.
As I parked my truck and began to draw the will to move myself into the heart of the day’s sorrow, I found that I could not extinguish the sounds of the radio, still reading the names of the more than 3000 individuals who lost their lives that day. It seemed like an eternity had passed, yet the alphabetical reading was only in the “C’s”. Jose Cardona, Dennis M Carey, Edward Carlino, Michael Scott Carlo, David G. Carlone, Rosemarie C. Carlson, Mark Stephen Carney, Joyce Ann Carpeneto, Jeremy M. Carrington… Somehow, I managed the resolve to wipe away the tears, and moved myself from the truck and toward the theatre where many of my fellow citizen’s hearts would hopefully throng, along with the music, and mine.
I found a seat near the back, which was elevated, and provided a large view of the theatre. I sat alone while the hall slowly filled to near capacity. Many of the faces that began to sit around me were solemn, sorrowful. Yet so many others were taking this performance as if it were an event of opportunity. Around me, through voices overheard, were people frustrated with the remaining seat selection, people with agendas that were driven away from their busy lives. I heard comments complaining about the reading of the names during the memorial services in New York City, comments spoken in frustration that television news coverage had forced them to endure such monotony and such a waste of time. I found myself shocked that such selfish and cold comments could be made at a time when human compassion and understanding should naturally prevail. Only few around me seemed to be here to mourn, or reflect. My witnessing of such brought on a great sadness that we, as collective survivors, do not cherish what we have learned, and what we have lost of life and love, through today’s echoing pain.
As the lights dimmed and the music began, I recognized the seed of a longing that only then, I realized was growing inside of me. I realized that in the moments of the greatest tragedy ever encountered on our nation’s soil, was contained the truest and most sincere outpouring of human compassion and love. For it is the desperation associated with great tragedy or great need that drives us to acts of heroism, kindness, and sacrifice. It is this great human capability that I long for in my daily life, and the true reason that I came here today, to find it, and to claim it. Not to account for and own for myself, but to capture and echo as a prayer for all mankind to recognize and hold on to these values as operators in our daily lives. As people of any society or congregation, we truly long to embody these virtues in our own behavior, yet we distort our understanding of our own desires by way of our societal driven needs, perceptions, and the manner by which we market ourselves to ourselves.
As the greatest national power on the globe, and at a time in our history where the world is truly small, we can no longer allow our self appointed interests and egos to drive our actions within this world community. Our nation was founded from the phoenix of past tyranny and societal selfishness, and now, again, we tender that same negative inertia and believe that it is good. For the greatest thing we have gained as a result of the September 11 attacks, is that we are now placed center stage and in a position to truly show the mettle of our collective soul. Our worldly place today, whether we accept it or not, provides us with the greatest opportunity for leadership that any nation has ever been afforded. As such, our true calling is to act in the manner of behavior that provided foundation for our nation, molded our value system, and provided our compassionate acceptance of this world. In the name of all past tragedies, moments of great desperation and heroism, we must hold on to and exhibit these values in our every day lives. We must embrace and exhibit this deepest compassion, love and understanding if we truly desire to lead our global society beyond these days of malice and hatred. For the fabric of our very existence is now openly exposed, and calling for our own regeneration, urging our success and evolution. Without which, well, here we will be again, regretting past tragedy, memorializing our loss, and praying for a future peace, as nothing more than mere children of histories’ repetition.
J. Blue September 11, 2002