Saturday, September 12, 2015

What Have We Learned?

Like so many others in our country, the events of 9/11/01 will forever be emblazoned in my mind:  The initial shock of the report that a plane had hit a building in New York City.  The horror of watching live TV as another plane hit the tower adjacent to the first.  The continuing agony as I learned of more hijackings, more downed planes, and the loss of so many lives.  Anguish as people began leaping from the infernos.  Overwhelming grief as hour after hour of coverage unfolded:  firemen and other rescuers dying to save lives, heroic passengers giving their lives to protect others on the ground...and on and on it went.  The angry realization that someone plotted these attacks in the name of honoring God and their religion.  The feeling of unity with our entire nation, as all citizens were called to prayer.  Even in the midst of tragedy, America was at her finest, standing strong against terrorism.

But now, fourteen years later, what have we learned from 9/11?  Have the lessons from that tragic day really sunk into our national conscience?  What have we, as "regular" people done with 9/11 in our daily lives?

Please don't misunderstand me.  I believe that life must go on.  I believe we must look beyond the tragedy and show the world that we cannot be stopped by such events.  But what have we learned?  There are three things that were in the forefront in the weeks and days after we were attacked, that I hope we can and will continue to foster in our own lives, and in the lives of generations to come.

1.  Faith.
     It was the first thing people said in response:  We need to pray.
    Prayer vigils sprang up everywhere.  There was no cry of "separation of Church and state," because we were all too busy praying to argue about whether or not that was a good idea.  Churches were packed to capacity.  Prayers were sent up at national sporting events, and no one cried, "Foul!"
     Are we still praying for our country and our leaders?  Or are we too busy criticizing them?  Are we continuing to learn our faith so that we have hope to share with the world?  Are we still entreating God to bless America?

2.  Freedom.
     Patriotic clothing became popular again.  We hadn't seen that much red, white, and blue since 1976.  Flags were waving from front porches all over the nation.  Our military once again received the honor due them for their sacrifices.  Parents were once again proud of their sons and daughters who signed up to go fight on foreign soil.
     The first responders (emergency personnel of every agency) were lauded as heroes.  Their daily work became national headlines as we saw them work tirelessly and witnessed them forfeit their own lives for the sake of others.
     In short, we were once again proud to be Americans.  We were all standing arm-in-arm, no matter what color our skin, no matter what our station in life.  Young and old, rich and poor, men and women, children and teens...we were together in showing the world that we would not be defeated.
     But are we now, a mere 14 years later?  Or are we more divided than ever?  Are we standing behind those who defend us, whether in our own county, or in other lands?

3.  Forgiveness.
     One thing more.  This is a tough one, too.  Maybe the toughest of the three.
     I know this is no secret, but I am a Christian.  And yet, I will readily admit what I mentioned above:  After the initial shock wore off, I was really, really angry.  The "let's go get those Muslims" mindset took hold of me.  When media sources began spouting their politically correct mantras, I was even more incensed.  A wrong had been enacted agianst our country, and we needed to make it right.  I still believe there is sometimes a cause for "just" war.  Those who commit such atrocities do need to be held accountable and brought to justice.  War crimes are just that--crimes.
     But just as I know a very small number of pro-life people go around shooting abortion doctors and bombing clinics , and 99% of Christians are not like the folks from Westboro, I also know there are thousands of Muslim citizens in this country and around the world who were just as traumatized as the rest of us when those buildings and airplanes came down.  The truth is, there were Muslims in the World Trade Center buildings, too.  Their lives were taken just as senselessly as the rest, whether they were Jews, Christians, atheists, Buddhists...or whatever.  The terrorists didn't pick and choose.
     I also know that Jesus didn't die just so we can forgive our friends when they wrong us.  He died for every...single...person.  He taught us to forgive every...single...person.  No exceptions.
     This lesson rings so true, too, if you think about the "why" of 9/11.  Really, isn't bitterness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness the motive behind the incidents that occurred?  If we continue in those traits, aren't we perpetuating the mindset we say we loathe?
     And so I leave you with the words of the One who had the most reason NOT to forgive, and yet chose to offer it to the whole human race anyway.  Truly, in light of Jesus' sacrifice, how can we NOT forgive?

Luke 6:27-36 (RSVCE):

27 “But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withhold your coat as well. 30 Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again.31 And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

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