Saturday, 11 September 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001

Sept 11 memorial
On September 11, 2001, I sat on the GO train across from a lady who was praying.  I couldn't hear her praying nor were her lips moving, but I knew she was prayingnonetheless.  Her body was held in the praying manner, composed, but relaxed; her hands were joined neatly on her lap, gently; but her face was what made me know - that calm, focused look, not sleep, but busy - connecting.  Even with her eyes closed, I felt her prayers.  I felt an aura of peace emanating frm her center.  And I took it for granted.  "That's what prayers do." I thought, and turned my attention to my own pursuits.  I regret now that I did not join her, because it was a day when so many prayers were needed.
  I remember feeling that people who lived during the second World War must have felt this way - uncertain of where to turn, lest the very spot you were standing on was the next to be bombed, or perhaps it was the safest spot.  I remember feeling sorry for my parents to have lived through that and I hadn't known, hadn't given enough attention to their hardships.  Callous, selfish, impetuous, head-strong youth.  Like a potion, it had drugged me.  Yet, without it, the human race would cease to push the envelope, for it is the wildness of youth that drives the world forward.
  I remember feeling an endless lust for information, for pictures especially and while repelled by the horror, I was also addicted to it.  Movie-makers must realize this.  What is it in human nature that craves this fix? I know if it is too peaceful, people will war to stir up some excitement, even unto death.

  Yesterday, I saw the images again and they failed to stimulate the same feelings that they had when I first saw them.  That area of my heart must have calloused over.  A new horror will be necessary to stir it up again.  This ability to absorb horrors is what keeps the engine of war fueled and moving.  What will it take to stop it?  This is just another addiction and it must be left to die,unfed, if we are ever to rid ourselves of it. 
  I remember, most of all, the bravery of one small Oriental woman, crouching down to light a candle at a candle-lit vigil, with her toddler on her lap, turning toward the camera and, in a faltering voice, stand up to the bullying camera and quietly, tentatively, audaciously, disagree with Larry King:  "I think we need to respond with love." 
  The camera quickly cut to commercial, but my heart immediatly knew she was right.  Despite the anger, despite the plans for war, that generated more angst and fear in me, despite the opinion of Larry King and every guest on CNN, CBC, ABC, NBC and Global, who recommended a quick response, a deadly strike while the iron was hot, a retaliation, revenge, punishment for the perpetrators.  Death is not a tragedy to God.  It is a homecoming, and the souls of the dead do not call for war, but for peace, for love, for understanding.  But we sho live beneath the veil of our emotions, must wait before we can understand, must calm our fears to allow peace to be and must bare our souls to allow ourselves to love and be loved. 
  Therein lies the rub.  Perhaps now, a year (or ten years) later, when the anger is subdued, we might consider other perspectives - the rest of the world, the dichotomy of rich and poor, the basic nature of all humans and begin to nourish and open to the possibilities of love. 

(first published in The Online Christian Magazine, September 11, 2001)

St. Patrick's Church, NYC, May 2010, photo by dmvrant

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