Eight years ago today, the world changed. As America was awakening on that September morning, no one could have known that an historic act of epic proportion was about to take place and change all of us forever. The photo of firemen raising the flag ((c) 2001 The Record, (Bergen County, NJ) in the midst of the rubble of the World Trade Center is burned into the memories of most Americans who witnessed the terrible events of that day unfold on television.
Thousands died on this day in New York, Washington, and on a lonely farm field in Pennsylvania. All were innocent of any crime. They were going about their business just as we all were without a thought of death in their minds.
I can remember the stunned silence when we first heard that an airliner had slammed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. I thought it was rather odd that a plane of such size had crashed into the WTC because I had visited the towers on a couple of occasions and knew precisely where they were. No aircraft ever fly that low over that part of Manhattan. I found myself thinking that this was probably a terrorist act but as soon as that thought popped into my head, it left. I don't think I wanted to even entertain the possibility of such a thing happening. Yet, it did.
On September 10, 2001, the world was different in so many ways. We were not afraid in the same way we are now in light of the disaster. Our concerns seem so trivial from this vantage point. If you remember that day and were anywhere where others were such as grocery stores or buses or restaurants you will remember that almost blank look on nearly everyones face. We were all in shock. The images of those towers first being attacked by the hijacked airliners and then tumbling to the New York streets below were sered into our minds. It was hard to get the images out as you played them over and over in an attempt to make sense of the insensible.
Churches filled that night with the faithful praying, seeking Divine guidance in coming to grips with this national tragedy. People were kinder to one another as strangers struck up conversations everywhere. All airline traffic was grounded and as the skies above emptied, an eerie silence crept over the land. Flags appeared everywhere, in yards, on porches, in cars, and on subways. As the shock wore off, the demand for revenge began to grow not just in Washington but throughout the country. It was clear we were about to embark on a misguided war. The thirst for blood was palpable.
Muslims everywhere feared for their very lives. The public looked upon every member of that faith suspiciously. I remember one very educated man at worked demanded that we drop the nuclear bomb on Iraq and Iran and turn it into a "parking lot." He was not alone.
In order to cope with the underlying fear that most people felt to one degree or another. we turned to comfort foods. Remember? Stews, meat loaves, home cooked meals and family potlucks became the fashion of the time. People needed a firm foundation from which to operate so as to feel a sense of security and familiarity. It provided us with an anchor of sorts and we felt a little better about things. But it was not a permanent thing.
Now, eight years later, thousands dead both Americans and citizens of the Middle East, we are mired in a war of a different sort. It is an internal conflict but not a Civil War. It is, rather, a conflict of trying to determine just who we are as a nation and a people. It is a conflict of realizing that a vast majority of the Muslim faith are peace loving, law abiding citizens, while, at the same time, harboring an uneasy sense of suspicion against anyone who professes that faith. We seem to have lost our moral compass.
Who knows how long America's young men and women will have to stay and fight in far off places like Iraq and Afghanistan? Who knows how many American lives will be lost right along with the lives of the innocent citizens of both countries. Who knows what will become of our culture which was thrown into a chaos on that September day which still reverberates today.
The only moral compass we have is that of God. He is present in our families. He is present in the workplace in the form of others. He is present in our churches, synagogues, and mosques. He is in nature. He is in us. He is the answer. Because we have lost our way, it is important for us to remember what Christ said so long ago. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (Jn 14:6) We must find our way back to Him before we can find our way back to a society grounded in confidence and freedom that 9/11 took away from us.
On this day we pause to remember those who died in the rubble of planes and buildings. We remember them with a firm resolution to restore the dignity to our society through peaceful means, with an eye to defending ourselves when justified and treating each other as our brothers and sisters. I can hear some of you moaning at this last statement, but if you think back to 9/12 and after you will realize that for one sparkling moment in the ashes of disaster, we did see each other as brothers and sisters, sharing a common destiny and hope for the future of our country and our children.
Rest in Peace all those victims who perished just eight years ago this morning. And may we never forget to treat each other with the dignity and integrity that all deserve.