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"Were You There?" - Monday Moment - September 11, 2023

Happy Monday, friends! There are events that stay with us; days, times, chance meetings, tragedies, and miracles so spectacular that even years later we can still remember them with vivid clarity. We can still hear what was said and feel the sensations we experienced. My mom remembers being sent home early from school on November 22, 1963, to find her mother weeping over the death of President Kennedy. I remember the moment that Sr. Miriam, our grade school principal, walked into Mrs. Wilson’s English class and whispered something. Moments later Mrs. Wilson wheeled the large boxlike TVs of the early 2000s braced on a cart to the front of the room and said, “A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.” Over the course of the day we lived through the trauma of the worst terrorist attack on US soil.


Reflecting on these kinds of days, we often remember where we were and what we were doing. We consider how the day was near or far from our reality and how much it impacted us. In small town Ohio, September 11 played out like a dream. The only fear was fear of the unknown, of how our circumstances might change. The few of my friends actively impacted by that day were the younger siblings of serving military personnel who knew they would soon be in harm’s way. Then there were the stories of near misses; of people missing one of the flights, getting stuck in traffic, or generally inconvenienced in some lifesaving way. The father of one of my future high school classmates, a doctor in the Navy Reserve, was inside the Pentagon and on his way to a meeting in the area where the plane struck the building, but the group stopped for a few minutes to purchase souvenirs for their families.


Regardless of the impact of September 11, 2001, on our individual lives, each of us had to make sense of the tragedy and the trauma. Songs, movies, plays, and musicals were written, politicians prepared for a new kind of war, and life slowly returned to a new normal. In one well known reflection, Alan Jackson asked, “Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?” A similar question is asked in a spiritual on Jesus’ death, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The haunting hymn calls to mind the depth of emotion experienced by the people there when Jesus was crucified, died, buried, and at his resurrection.


Just as the church marks the solemn moment of Christ’s death, we have continued to mark September 11, 2001, each year. And like all events some years our remembrance was fleeting while in other years it was profound. When I worked at Iona University, which lost 17 alumni in the World Trade Center, the day was marked with prayer and a pipe and drum corp. So too are our remembrances of Christ’s death. Some years we prepare for Easter with vigor, but the events of other years draw us into Good Friday.


Where were you on September 11, 2001? How did you make sense of that day and all that has happened since?


Let us pray: God, we give you thanks for the heroes of September 11, 2001, and remember all those who died that day and those directly impacted by the tragedy. May we be people of peace and people of love who are spurred to work for greater equity in the world not just because of tragedy but because we know that we are dependent on each other. Amen.


Blessings on your weeks, my friends. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben

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