Today marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks onNew York and other sites on the eastern seaboard of theUnited States. There are those today who shall feel the particular pain of a loved one or loved ones lost during the events of that harrowing day now a decade gone. Pain and loss never quite leave us, but time has the effect of balm; mercifully dulling the intensity of grief. For these people today the anniversary will revisit upon them the force and the frequency of the emotions which they experienced then, and the images on the television will collect everything back into the focus of their broken hearts. Some will hide from this day; others will set their faces like flint. For these people, on this day, I feel such sadness. With them I share a memory of frantic hope touching despair, and I feel that pain. Today we pray for them.
In the face of such horror however, a great hope was born on the streets ofManhattanten years ago today. On the television and on the radio inAmericaand around the world, millions witnessed the beautiful transformation of apparently cold New Yorkers into heroes and martyrs. Women and men in workaday suits and uniforms walked, often to certain death, into grave danger to reach the hands of other human beings whom they had never before met. In the sudden depths of catastrophe ordinary people took it upon themselves to become extraordinary. For all of our perceptions of the Big Apple as a cruel and hard place, it was the everyday New Yorker who reminded us that we are human. For all of the loss and the fear and the despair, there was a flash of something truly brilliant from the rubble and dust that day.
Yet today I dread seeing those images, now multi-million dollar stock footage, flash over our screens. Whilst the brilliant and radiant child of hope and shared-humanity shone bright for that day, for ten whole years her brother, a terrible beast, has been let loose about the earth. Might we call this terrible child Shock and Awe and bloody vengeance? Our world has become a place of less security and less trust. It is a world in which justice is silenced to meet the demands of furious anger and twisted political ambition. Here is not the place to cite death tolls in the Middle East, or to rant about torture and the treatment of innocent people (our sisters and brothers) at the hands of theUnited States’ armed forces and its allies. We know the statistics of this barbarity.
As human beings we share a common desire for justice and peace. Our instincts for justice and peace are, by nature, indiscriminate. Today the media circus will go into a frenzy, and undoubtedly it will profit from its presentations of ten years ago – but there is no prophet in all of this noise. Today we need those heroes again. Men and women bold enough to reach out into the suffering caused by blind wrath and meet there the brothers and sisters whom they are being asked to forget by the machinery of injustice. My fear is that if we tarry much longer in the search for this universal justice and peace, then God bless America. God bless us all.