Archive for September 12th, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where were you?  You know the answer.  Me, too.  I know exactly where I was when I first got the news that the World Trade Center was hit.  I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the event then (a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center, they first speculated), but the memory is indelible in my mind, even at this age, as it is for you.

On this ten-year anniversary, we will not forget.  Retrospectives fill the airwaves and print media.  They bring back all those days of uncertainty, images of a terrible moment like Armageddon, when we wondered if this was The End.  And for far too many, it was.

I was in the habit of writing a weekly LeaderFOCUS back then.  These days, the current of LF version is trimmed down.  Some years before September 11, 2001, I established a discipline that got me in the habit of writing on a regular basis.  My goal: fifteen hundred to two thousand words a week – that’s three to four single-spaced pages with a twelve-pitch font for those of you not conversant in word count.  Today, my weekly essays are pared down to less than half that, knowing that you have plenty to read.  But that pivotal week, in the aftermath of the massive spectacle of horrors, I let it go.  I couldn’t stop.

This week, as part of my little personal memorial, I went back and read the two thousand, seven hundred and twenty-four (2,724) words I wrote on September 17, 2001[1].  I got carried away that day, but what writer wouldn’t?

Here’s one of my musings on the Saturday morning that followed the Tuesday we will never forget…

For a couple of decades, we [“Boomers”] crammed our naïve but ardently held ideas (which we thought were new and bold) down the unwilling throats of the Greatest Generation (we didn’t think of them in those terms back then) and embraced this rather ambitious notion that our heady enlightenment would usher in the Age of Aquarius and be the dawning of a new day of global brotherhood and sisterhood and the elimination of hunger, poverty, disease, violent conflict and every other sort of nasty contamination.  Sadly, all that has gone the way of the tie-dyed t-shirt and the flowered VW Microbus. 

As the dust of the ruined towers settled back then and we all looked into each other’s eyes in stunned disbelief, we wondered out loud – where will we all be in ten years?  Twenty years?  Well, we do not yet know about twenty, but here we are: ten years later.

And we were right.  The world has changed.

Ten years ago, most of us did not know the name Osama bin Laden.  Ten years ago, Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq.  Ten years ago, we barely noticed the proliferation of Mosques in our own country.  We knew little about Islam.  Ten years ago, we believed the “Internet Bubble” would be the worst of our economic troubles, and that it was behind us.  Ten years ago, at least half of us were not confident that the election gave us a legitimately elected President.  Ten years ago, I was not a grandfather.  (Now there are ten with two more on the way.)  Ten years ago, I had no real understanding of the plight of Dalits in India.  Ten years ago, I did not anticipate that a fire would sweep through our little town (The Paradise Fire of October 2003) and change the direction of my life.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking considerable heat for his decision to exclude “clergy” from the roster of the tenth anniversary memorial.  Righteous indignation abounds.  As a quasi-clergy myself, I can’t say I blame him.  My esteemed clergy colleagues spend far to much time clamoring for a prime spot at the head table, asserting their view that certain others ought to be excluded for the sake of principle (or “truth”) and bemoaning about how the rest of the world falls far short of their lofty standards.  Bloomberg may be right about shifting the focus from competing “world views” to the people for whom the event was created in the first place.  Anyway, clergy’s best work happens person to person – not in the spotlight.  (I’ll never forget the moving image of those collared priests, covered with ash, ministering to the dying.)

So if Bloomberg’s intent was to eliminate God (as many have charged), it didn’t work very well.  God got honorable (and powerful) mention from the people, most of whom were family and friends of those lost in the flames and rubble of the attack.  In the shadow of the new structure and beside the water spilling into the footprint of Towers One and Two, the names were read, bells rang out, bagpipes wailed, songs went up and if you paid attention, God was in the midst.  “A very present help in time of trouble,” read President Obama (quoting the Psalmist).

President Bush made no speech, other than to cite the words of Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, who lost five sons in the Civil War.

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp, 2011


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