Looking Back Upon 9/11
My mother still remembers where she was and what she was doing when she heard that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. I will never forget where I was when I heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.
And we all remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. Even though twelve years have passed, it still seems surreal, like going to the theater and seeing a disaster movie. We want to walk out of the theater, after seeing those planes crash, and go back to life as normal. But life in this country will never be the same again.
There are no words to adequately express what we feel about that Tuesday morning twelve years ago. Our anger, our fearfulness, the broken-heartedness of thousands and thousands of people. The terrible loss of life, the sacrifice of those passengers in the planes, the murder of the innocents in New York City and Washington, D.C. and in a farm field in Western Pennsylvania, the calculating evil of the zealots who in the name of some demented god or some misguided loyalty succeeded in taking the lives of people who woke up that day, like the rest of us, had a day’s work in mind, a desk full of papers, e-mails to answer, phone calls to make, and in the blink of an eye were gone.
The landscape of our lives has been inextricably altered since then. We stand through long lines at airports while the TSA gives us a look-over. The US government has become chillingly like Big Brother in trying to figure out who is innocent and who wants to do harm. We are more suspicious of the stranger and the alien.
In my church in Northbrook, Illinois we had a fraternal relationship with a mosque. We met regularly with Muslim neighbors, had a meal, and talked together. I must confess I had never talked with a Muslim at any depth before these encounters.
One night I talked with a young woman from the mosque. She wore her scarf, which for a Muslim woman is an act of modesty and obedience to the principles of Islam. I learned she was Director of Security for the Hilton Hotel at O’Hare airport. Her family had immigrated to the US after the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990's. Her father and grandfather were carried away by the Serbs and their bodies were found mutilated a few days later. The Serbs, Orthodox Christians at least in name, killed over 100,000 Bosnian Muslims.
I tell you that story because so-called Christians have also contributed to the blood-stained linen of history. We are all aware of the Muslim extremists. But we should also be aware that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are people of virtue and faith. As President George Bush said in his address to the nation after 9/11: “Islam is a peaceful religion.”
The Muslims I know from Northbrook love America. They are grateful that our country has taken them in. They are as patriotic as you and I. They are heart-sick about 9/11 because they have experienced first-hand what it means to suffer from evil men and women.