9/11 Five Years Later
[I published this commentary in the local newspaper. Thought I'd share it with you. -- PB]
In a perfect state of blissful ignorance, I was in my study reading on the morning of
I interrupted her. “What are you talking about?” I asked what was going on. Was she okay? And then I heard her take a very deep breath and she said, “Honey, go turn on the television. Stay on the phone with me and go turn on the television.”
And so we watched the mayhem together, or rather I watched while she stayed on the phone with me. My younger brother Chip worked in
Life in ministry had certainly acquainted me with the shadow side of human nature, but nothing in my experience or seminary training had ever prepared me for an encounter with this kind of malevolence. It felt apocalyptic. It felt demonic. I knew, however, that as soon as I could manage it, I would have to reach out to my congregation that didn’t have a building of its own and therefore had no central place to gather, and that most intimidating and overwhelming of all, that I would have to have something to say about the events of this day. I remember thinking that I wouldn’t be able to say anything at all if I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering.
What could I say? What could I possibly say? I wanted nothing more than to hide in my room and lock the door. I pulled down my Bible and opened to the Psalms, that ancient hymn book that contains not only praise, hope and faith but human rage, despair, destruction, fear, vengeance, and fist-shaking at God. I did not know that morning that Muslim fanatics were responsible for the attacks, or that religion in general would take such a central role in the global response to this day. I just knew that I needed to hear the voices of other struggling, faithful human beings who had experienced their own horrific destructions. I needed their company in prayer, and I needed to ground myself with the Psalmist in the reality that although human beings may choose to commit atrocious acts with their God-given existential freedom, the world was still a sacred place where love could, and would, abide and triumph over fear.
By the time I walked out the door for our evening community vigil, I was still shaky and terrified (and would remain so for some time afterward), but I had one clear thought in my head and in my heart: either love is stronger than fear, or it isn’t. Either we believe that love is stronger than fear, or we don’t.
Whatever we did from this day forward, as individuals, as communities, and as a nation would illustrate where we stand on this ultimate question. I knew where I wanted to stand.