For those of us old enough to remember September 11, 2001, who could ever forget?
Today marks the 10th anniversary of that day. It was a day that began like every other day for most of us. It was a Tuesday. Whatever your normal routine was in the Fall of 2001, you were probably doing it on that Tuesday morning. It was a nice day – no humidity, mild, calm. Right in the middle of the morning, disaster struck New York, Washington, and Western Pennsylvania. You all remember the images and happenings of that day. Unthinkable acts of evil. Seemingly invincible buildings collapsing like houses of cards. Steel shattered. People at the mercy of unseen, malevolent forces, running for their lives. And as the day passed from morning to afternoon, one was left to wonder, “Is there more to come?” An uneasiness set in that, in my opinion, lasted for at least a year. It was that shell-shocked mentality of, “what’s next?”
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the events of September 11, with the exception of each early September, when the event’s anniversary draws near. I can’t revisit the event over and over again. It was simply too traumatic – who would want to stay there? But I do remind myself often of the good lessons learned that day. These are lessons that we must never forget. Indeed, we should ponder these good lessons of 9/11 forever, and never leave them behind. That day was a crossroads day, like few other in the passing of time. That day showed us who we really are as people. For the most part, it showed us that we are better than we think that we are, or than we are led to believe.
The firefighters, policemen, and first responders remain heroes of the highest order. They showed us an utter contempt for their own well-being, in order to save the lives of others. How about the passengers of Flight 93, who charged the cockpit doors? In this, do we see an echo of the marytrs, an echo of Christ? How selfless and brave these people were! So many of them were Catholic, and our faith played a large role in the aftermath of the attack. The first fatality of that day in New York was the Catholic priest chaplain of the Fire Department. They showed us that we indeed can all be heroes and saints, at a moment’s notice, at the drop of a hat. This is what we really are. We are not pieces in a puzzle of a culture of death, nor agents of decay in a weary world. We are, each of us, capable of so much more, and we forget that often.
Also, we learned from that day how closely inter-related we are. Our lives are intertwined. We have been raised in a hyper-individualistic, relativistic time. We were convinced that each man is an island. How untrue that is! September 11 proved that we are all very close to one another. Consequently, how we live really does affect the lives of others in a profound way.
As this anniversary passes, and so many of our military men and women continue to defend the citezens of this country abroad, we reflect on how that day changed us. So many lessons were learned that day. May we focus on that which is good and upbuilding from that day. Only once or twice in a lifetime is a whole nation reminded of the goodness and unity that it posesses. 9/11 stirs in me a great pride in being both a man of faith and an American. How about you?