Immediately after 9/11 many people sat down and wrote out their feelings. This moving poem captures for me our sentiments on the days following the September 11th attack. It was written by Cheryl Sawyer.
“As the soot and dirt and ash rained down,
We became one color.
As we carried each other down the stairs of the burning building
We became one class.
As we lit candles of waiting and hope
We became one generation.
As the firefighters and police officers fought their way into the inferno
We became one gender.
As we fell to our knees in prayer and strength,
We became one faith.
As we whispered or shouted words of encouragement,
We spoke one language.
As we gave our blood in lines a mile long,
We became one body.
As we mourned together the great loss
We became one family.
As we cried tears of grief and loss
We became one soul.
As we retell with pride the sacrifice of heroes
We become one people.
We are The Power of One.
We are united.
We are America.
I love this poem. I remember reading it somewhere right after 9/11 happened and loved the sentiment. We were in Oregon visiting relatives when the planes hit. We couldn't get home for several days because all flights had been cancelled. I missed preaching the Sunday after 9/11--but got home in the middle of the next week. On Sunday I gave my reflections of what had happened to us and what I thought it meant theologically.
After the sermon one of our Ushers said, "There is a young man back here that wants to talk to you." I saw him and invited him into my office. He was a University student from Iraq. He was a Muslim. He told me how ashamed he was because of those that destroyed the towers were Muslim. And then he said, "Does your God hate Muslims?" That was the question he came asking. I assured him that God loved everyone...and that God loved him and I hope because this had happened that he would not have a hard time in our country. I still feel that way after all these years.
Sorrowfully, our one-ness of that day did not last long. We went back to our favorite trenches, with our favorite weapons and began to fight once more. We fought a war for the wrong reasons...there were no weapons of mass destruction. Suddam Hussein, monster though he was, had nothing to do with this attack. He and Osama ben Laden hated each other. We broke our own rules with torture and rendition. We created a Department of Homeland Security that seems to cover everything. We kept spending and spending money on these wars until it has nearly bankrupted us. It takes a million dollars a year to keep one of our soldiers in this war that seems to have no end. 7,000 coalition forces have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since this war started. Estimates are that over 200,000 locals have met their death in this war. These figures do not include the broken and wounded who will never be as they were.We elected our first black President and yet he has been more vilified that any President we ever had. Death threats on the office of the Presidency has escalated since he has come to office.
We have become a fearful and anxious people. And fearful and anxious people launched the Third Reich. Our politicians cannot get together enough to deal with this economic or jobs crisis. Many would rather the country go down the drain than re-elect a black President for a second term. Our list of hatreds seems to grow. Gays, liberals, intellectuals, mainstream Christians that do not understand fundamentalism. We are scared to death of the Muslim citizens in this country--and our resolutions and laws directed toward Hispanics shatters the intent and meaning of the Constitution.
We've have been through bad periods before. We will somehow get through this slough of despond. We have always been a resilient people. But anxious, fearing people do strange things. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches--it is a good time to ponder that one-ness we had once upon a time when the ground still smoked and the rubble was everywhere and there was weeping in the streets by people of all colors and all races.
Let us all do our parts to lower the temperature--and find some way to become the dream of our forebears: a United States.
I read a prayer-poem the other day that might be wonderful medicine for us all.
"May the pain of every living being
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all the sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed...
May the frightened cease to be afraid
And those bound be freed..."
--Prayer by Geshe Acharya Thusten Loden
And God bless America--all America--All--ALL.