September 11 is here again.On the east coast it seems to arrive most often with the crystal clear skies and crisp air of the original 9/11. Stepping outside on the anniversary to weather like this transports anyone who was there instantly back to where they were that morning. Somehow the beauty of the day added to the horror. How could something so terrible happen in the midst of such magnificence?
Perhaps that is part of the lesson we have all taken away. Life sometimes works that way. One moment we are celebrating, the next instant we are mourning and then somehow we are rebuilding our lives again.We can't live poised on the precipice, always wary and waiting for tragedy but when it happens, we must not allow it to destroy our lives. It becomes part of who we are. We are changed in our capacity to celebrate as the remarkable families and individuals who lost loved ones demonstrate year after year in their 9/11 memorial tributes. Our nation has watched toddlers turn into teens and children transform into young adults who speak movingly of the impact of this event on their lives. We all have a stake in who these children become. It's America. We're still a community of communities. The circles of influence and impact ripple out and many of us in the years since have discovered a personal connection with at least one family or individual personally affected by a 9/11 loss.
Yes we are moving on, but this will always be a part of who we are. It is one of the threshold events in American history that changed all of us forever. We cannot move forward without understanding what this moment means to us. The poem below expresses how I felt on the evening of 9/11. What's interesting to me is that 11 years later with Osama Bin Laden dead, the war in Afghanistan still on, and polarized political discourse paralyzing Washington, I remain fundamentally committed to these ideas. What I wish for now more than ever is that we pursue these qualities for ourselves- as individuals and as a nation.
September 11, 2001
This is one of those moments.
The kind that instantly sears the collective memory of a people.
This morning our country was raped
by a gang of terrorists.
A penetration so deep, a taking so violent
that we are all still shaking from the violation.
Everyone knows where they were when it happened--
a moment captured in the amber of the psyche,
preserved in a single shared image.
The trade center vanishing into the earth
in a mushroom cloud of debris and dreams,
as final as the Challenger exploding in the sky,
as dramatic as Jackie-in-pink cradling Jack.
With the trade center went the last vestige
of our innocence down down down.
That is the point of course--
to take us down.
To take lives and then our life.
And of course it will not work.
We will stagger and reel as we calculate our losses,
mourn our dead, scrape up the bits and pieces of
shattered lives in our skies and fields and streets and hearts.
And then because we know that evil exists, but we prefer goodness,
because when-given-the-choice we choose life, not death,
we choose blessing not curse,
we will prevail.
The cynics will be out in force flanked by pundits and second-guessers
right and left,
offering their glib assessments, their trenchant prophecies,
as if this was a game and Monday morning matters.
Words will fly as if utterances could heal the wounds
or raise the dead
or rain retribution upon the terrifier.
And we will discover the Truth.
Actions speak louder than words.
All that really matters is the blessing we choose to make of our lives.
Lee M. Hendler