'Please pray for all who were murdered by Islamic terrorists on this day in 2001. Pray for their families. Pray for all those who fight terrorism & terror sponsors "over there" so we can live in safety here. Pray for all peace-loving democracies, that God will give us the grace to reach out to all who want peace & freedom, the fortitude to stand strong against those who do not, and the wisdom to know the difference.'
That was my Facebook status today. I still mourn when I recall how that perfect September morning morphed into surreal horror as more than 3,000 Americans and foreign guests lost their lives – and thousands more lost their way in the aftermath.
Free commerce and global trading as we know it vaporized as the World Trade Center towers collapsed upon themselves.
The enormous gash in the Pentagon punched straight through to our very sense of American security and complacency.
The peace and tranquility of ordinary citizens living ordinary lives abruptly shattered when Flight 93 slashed through a Pennsylvania meadow in a searing jolt of terrorism with global reach.
Revulsion still shudders through every angry nerve when I recall the glee expressed by Osama bin Laden and his minions over the unprecedented success of their attacks.
I still weep at recordings of the last phone calls made by Flight 93 passengers to their loved ones, knowing they would not see them ever again.
My patriotic blood still courses at the phrase, “Let’s roll”.
Our very sense of American identity was transplanted that day. We were forcibly torn from our deep-rooted belief that because we stand for freedom, because we are the strongest, most able nation in the world, because we devote untold human and capital resources to helping less fortunate global neighbors, deep down other nations must like us – or, at the very least, have a grudging respect for us. Since entire generations had grown up in a post Cold War world with America as the only superpower, we had absorbed a complacent belief that we were invincible. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 ripped out that diseased belief structure and replaced it with Homeland Security, hundreds of thousands of combat soldiers in action, fighter jet patrols over our major cities and fundamental economic upheaval.
In the eight years since the attacks, we have behaved very much like transplant patients. Even though we know we now need these things – these intrusions into our civil liberties, these daily security inconveniences, these economic restructurings – to stay alive, our body politic still tries to reject the new transplanted reality. We still long for our old belief structure, even though we know it was diseased and unsustainable. We still try to avoid taking our daily dose of reality medicine, even though we know it’s the only way to stay strong and healthy. And we will always bear the permanent scars of our ordeal, no matter how much we try to eradicate them.
We Americans, eternal optimists that we are, need to strive forward. It is part of our national DNA. However, we also now carry with us the sorrow of knowledge that not everyone shares our outlooks and our beliefs, and they want us dead. Wisdom can spring from that sorrow. We can use that wisdom to improve how we influence the world. We can look to the world stage with our eyes wide open and see our friends – and our enemies – for who they are, understanding that our beliefs and our traditions may not necessarily reflect today’s current realities. We can then act accordingly to further the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice in the world. Let us pray that we do so with grace, fortitude and discernment in all things.