I cannot pretend to have wisdom on a day like 9/11. Nor to truly understand the depth of its impact. Simply to acknowledge that it shook not just those who were hurt or lost, and their families and communities, but all of us. It changed our world view. It rippled out in layers of distrust and violence, but also in ever-growing rings of hope and resilience.
Just yesterday a friend and I remembered being together on the day that the Twin Towers came down. We’ll always remember where we were that day. Wanting to scoop up our children and hold them close. Not sure if the world was ending.
We recalled worrying for a friend who traveled internationally on American Airlines flights to London. Was she alive? As it turned out, she was okay, but she attended the funerals of several colleagues — crew members — for weeks afterward.
We remembered the arrival of a little boy from that devastated Manhattan neighborhood to our daughters’ school in New England. His home was not habitable; his school was closed.
This past weekend, our neighboring town of Rowley dedicated a memorial to 3 townspeople who were on one of the flights. They used as their monument, a piece of steel from the site of the crash. It was moving, yet can never express all that was taken away on that day.
In my father-in-law’s town in New Jersey, where the ferry leaves every morning for Manhattan, the memorial is larger. Too many folk were connected from the small seaside town to the large city center; their passengers worked in those buildings, and many never came home.
And finally, our minister Rebecca Pugh Brown uncovered and recounted for us the story of Andrew Rice, and his journey of loss and forgiveness. His brother David was in the second tower. Andrew was a journalist at the time, and much of the rhetoric after the day of 9/11 didn’t fit his view of the world. He was angry, but he sought some sort of resolution or healing step. His story is shared on the site of The Forgiveness Project.
Then, as David Rice’s summary tells us, “Later, a group called Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation were contacted by the mother of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacharias Moussaoui, who has been held in solitary confinement in Northern Virginia since September 11. She had a unique request. She wanted to meet some of the families of the victims and ask for their forgiveness.”
We were nervous; scared of our Government finding out, and scared it would be just too upsetting. But finally a small group of us agreed to meet Madame al-Wafi in New York City in November 2002. As we waited in a private university building, a mother whose son was killed in the World Trade Centre went down the hall to meet her. We heard footsteps, then silence. Then we heard this sobbing. Finally they both came into the room, both mothers with their arms around each other. By now we were all crying. Madame al-Wafi reminded me a lot of my own mother, who had cried so much after David died. She spent three hours with us and told us how the extremist group had given her mentally ill son a purpose in life.
One day I’d like to meet Zacharias Moussaoui. I’d like to say to him, ‘you can hate me and my brother as much as you like, but I want you to know that I loved your mother and I comforted her when she was crying’.”
Today I’ll sit in a class at Harvard University called “Understanding Islam.” There is so much education, awareness and bridge-building to be done.
I want to work side by side with Muslim brothers and sisters, to create a world that has space and hope for all of us. That’s part of my work and purpose by attending Harvard. That’s why practitioners of Islam are studying alongside me, for the same reasons.
Today is a tense, emotional, difficult day. It’s easy to step awry.
Instead, breathe. Listen. Pray.
Pay attention to what you’re feeling. Honor it. Acknowledge it. Then let it wash through you. Let it arrive. Let it go. As much as that is possible for you.
Be an instrument of peace today. For yourself. For others. For our world.