How to Honor the Memory of 9/11


9/11 is one of those days seared into the memory of those of us old enough to remember.  My twin sons were two, but even they were glued to the television.  My wife has family in New York and her sister-in-law was working downtown.  Fear, disbelief, rage, despair.  Waves of emotion struck us all like a national tsunami.  We watched heroes respond in New York.  We learned of the heroism of passengers on Flight 93 that saved us from greater devastation.  But in the intervening years I wonder if we have forgotten why 9/11 happened.

Honoring the Memory of 9/11

When I honor someone’s memory I think of the essence of who they were.  They stood for something, believed in something.  The same is true for 9/11.  Terrorist attacked us for one simple reason – they hated everything we stood for, everything we believed in.  Democracy and freedom.  Terrorist cannot accept pluralism.  They fight for a unified vision where one class of people is superior and others are infidels.  Terrorist refuse to listen to other ideas.  They are not open to other faiths.

In the aftermath of 9/11 we saw a nation come together.  While some immediately became suspicious of Muslim neighbors and a backlash took place, our President quickly decried such actions.

I … want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.   George Bush, Sept. 20, 2011.

President Bush was right.  Our enemy was not a faith, friends or neighbors.  The enemy was evil.  The enemy was those who would destroy freedom of faith, friends and neighbors.  America is that surprising nation where people can live together with different ideas from different backgrounds, races and ethnicity.  Our motto is true – E pluribus unum – out of many we are one.

Never Forget 9/11

I wonder if we’ve forgotten some of who we are since 9/11.  As our Supreme Court prepares to determine final issues on a Muslim ban and several states file actions to protect kids who are as American as anyone except for actions taken by their parents.  White nationalist march in broad daylight on the streets of Charlottesville emboldened by a seeming tolerance of evil.  Our NATO friends invoked Article 5 to come to our aid in the aftermath of 9/11, but today we refuse to say we will stand by Article 5.

Are we still a city on a hill?  Are we still a beacon of hope to the world of freedom, democracy and love of neighbor?  Or have we forgotten?  Do we immerse ourselves in ideological bubbles that treat others as infidels.  Liberals hating conservatives, business, and evangelical religion.  Conservatives hating liberals, social agendas, and the denigration of faith.  And a mix of those in between who hate one group but not another.  One might conclude the terrorist won.

There is certainly evidence for this, but I think most Americans have not forgotten.  Every day I see neighbors helping neighbors.  We see the memory of 9/11 lived out in the heroes of Harvey and Irma.  The firefighters and neighbors helping neighbors avoid fires across the west.  The marchers who refuse to stand for bigotry, hatred, racism and the denigration of their neighbors.  The silent vast majority who do an act of kindness for a roommate, coworker, friend or neighbor.

Fight for 9/11

America is an idea that must continuously be fought for.  We must work to secure liberty and justice for all.  Sometimes that will be grand big things like marches and calling Congress.  Most days that will be loving and serving your neighbor.  That’s how we honor the memory of 9/11.  If you want to honor the memory of 9/11 dare to live out the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Don’t succumb to hate.  Don’t succumb to darkness.  Be a beacon of hope and love to neighbors in need.  That is the America I love and the terrorist of 9/11 hate.  Remember 9/11.