When can 9/11 pass without ceremony?

It’s coming. The sun’s daily rising and setting prompts the inexorable turn of calendar pages and guarantees it.

This Sept. 11 marked 16 years since the day the world stood still as 19 terrorists commandeered four huge jets and flew them into New York City’s World Trade Center towers, into the Pentagon and into the ground.

More than 3,000 people died, and a nation took to its sick bed.

Those whose hurt hasn’t healed, and media who excavate a trove of emotional stories from pain cannot allow an anniversary of such magnitude to pass without notice.

Alan Sherouse, a pastor in Greensboro, NC, was pastor of Metro Baptist Church in New York City on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. He said it is often outsiders and media who manufacture the pageant of pain around such anniversaries. New Yorkers are too busy in their daily lives to give it much notice until the din of forced recall becomes so loud they all must pause – and remember.

Sometimes we are too self-absorbed in our own hurts to realize the enormous pains endured by other occupants of our shared planet.

Not to diminish either event but for the sake of some perspective I remind us that Nazi Germans exterminated an average of 3,618 persons every day from Dec. 7, 1941 when Chelmno became operable until the armistice was signed May 7, 1945. It was a 9/11 every single day for 1,247 days.

The blow America absorbed on Sept. 11, 2001 was mighty. But twice as many Americans died in the first 10 years after the event while executing our military response. We briefly enjoyed the world’s empathy, expressed by the French headline Sept. 12, 2001 that said, “We are all Americans today.” But we spent that currency in a shockingly frivolous manner.

The hazard of the pending national remembrance day for 9/11 victims and their families is that rhetoric and fervor will increase anti-Muslim sentiment. Politicians, fear mongers and television evangelists have used the event to raise alarm – and money. Politicians and war material manufacturers use reference and remembrance to justify our misguided involvement in wars to which there is no end and for which there is no tangible goal.

Since 9/11 is the sole reference point of some in regard to Islam, they use the event to claim we are in danger as a nation of becoming subject to sharia law. Do you really think Muslims in America want to be ruled by the strict Islamic sharia law they fled in other countries?

Islam did not create the disaster. Terrorists flew the planes – misguided, evil men who happened to claim Muslim identity. In the same way misguided and evil Anders Breivik claimed a Christian identity when he killed 77 people in Norway in 2012. Who doesn’t recoil to hear Breivik referred to as a “right wing, Christian fundamentalist?”

Will we use the anniversary day to extend a hand across the religious and cultural chasm between whatever we claim as our own identity and the person on the other side who describes himself or herself with other terms?

New York City pastor, author and stand up comic Susan Sparks was volunteering with the Red Cross the day after 9/11 taking inbound search calls. A woman called looking for her husband, and described what he wore when he left for work in one of the towers.

The woman started to laugh and said, “Oh, he left with the worst tie on.” Sparks didn’t know how to respond.

Then the woman said, “I’m sorry if humor seems inappropriate, but it’s all my family and I have left now.”

Laughter is always a lifeboat in the rough sea of grief and loss. As we face each anniversary of this tidal wave, we’ll know we are healed when the next anniversaries simply come and go, and our tears are dried by smiles.


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