dimanche, septembre 11, 2011

The sad lessons of September 11, 2001-Lancaster commentary

On one level, the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, changed little in my life.

But in other ways, the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in rural Shanksville profoundly changed the way I see the world — as perhaps it did for you.

No personal loss, and yet a loss that cannot yet be measured, and a hope that refuses to die.

I lost no one I knew in the tragedy, although that in itself is remarkable in that 20 percent of Americans knew someone affected by the attack, according to an article in New York Magazine.

I grew up in New York City, and have friends in the financial service industry.

Nearly 3,000 men, women and children died that day.

When we got the news that planes has crashed into the twin towers, my husband and I were at a diocesan meeting. Sitting in a large Gothic-themed church of soaring ceilings and arches, we were surrounded by men and women in black shirts and collars.

Clothed in all the garb of tradition, and ecclesiastical authority, we sat stunned as our bishop told us what had occurred. Suddenly, everything around us became a prop, our rituals flimsy barricades against an encroaching darkness.

Gazing out at the empty skies as we drove back to the parish where I worked, I wondered — as many of you might have done — if we were entering a true apocalyptic moment.

If apocalypse isn't the legacy of the madness that took so many innocent lives, the cost has been high enough.

Those of us who lived through the attacks will probably never feel as secure in own own cities and towns as we did before.

The post 9/11 military operations we are fighting have diverted money away from important needs here at home, such as rebuilding infrastructure or fighting poverty.

The cost of these conflicts are still rising, and our exit strategy remains unclear.

Though Osama Bin Laden is dead, and many experts believe al-Qaida is very much weakened, the insurgencies continue.

Thousands of our own brave fighting men and women have died, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children.

Nationally, there have been more than 1,700 hate crimes reported to the U.S. Council on Muslim-Islamic Relations, according to the New York Magazine article.

The unity of purpose we felt in the days after the attacks? It feels a bit chimerical now.

And what have we gained, taking into account bin Laden's death?

I can only speak for myself: these gifts are double-edged, born in sorrow and drenched in rue.

A deep respect and wonder for those of our citizens who died that day with bravery, faith in one another, and dignity. Again and again, my thoughts return to the field outside the little town of Shanksville, and the battle waged over its skies. The courage of the passengers on the plane that day meant that it is likely that many others lived.

Heartfelt appreciation for the sacrifices made by our firefighters and police, and the volunteers who spent days, months and even years at ground zero and the other sites. It is because of them, in large part, that life in those sacred spots has returned to something approaching normal.

Gratitude to the children, widows, widowers and relatives of those who died for continuing, not only to witness to what happened that morning, but to help make our country stronger and more effective at battling terrorism.

Thankfulness for work done by people of conscience building bridges between faiths in this country — and in battling bias against our Muslim neighbors.

A stronger sense — and in this I stand with St. Augustine and the Reform tradition — that those of us who are people of faith have a duty not only to stand up against the evil that is outside of us, but the malice, hard-heartedness and lack of empathy within us.

I take personal pride in being from the great city of New York. Yes, we are home to the Yankees — don't hold it against us. New Yorkers also are tough, tenacious, compassionate and visionary, rebuilding a nerve center of the world's financial district with their gutsiness and faith in the power of human persistence.

Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the cataclysm that touched so many lives, and when I think of the lessons from that day, I recall the extraordinary life of an ordinary woman — Beverly Eckert.

Eckert lost her high school sweetheart and husband, Sean Rooney, when the South Tower of the World Trade Center fell. After he died, she became an advocate for families touched by the tragedy. About five years ago, she recorded an NPR interview that touched on her memories of that day, and of their time together.

"I told him that I wanted to be there with him, but he said, no, no, he wanted me to live a full life," she says in the interview.

As the smoke got thicker, Rooney whispered, "'I love you,' over and over," Eckert says. "I just wanted to crawl through the phone lines to him, to hold him, one last time."

In a tragedy beyond words, Eckert died in the crash of Continental Flight 3407, on her way to Buffalo to commemorate her husband's birthday.

We'll never forget you, Beverly. Your story, multiplied, is that of so many survivors, and of many Americans, determined to wrest meaning out of rank evil and stand up for the sentiment that in the end, love will triumph.

A Christian sentiment, but more than that, a human one. When I recall the very mixed lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, that's the one I choose to recall — love that stands up to evil, and will not die.

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