Reflections on 9-11
I am transfixed on the TV today as some networks re-air their coverage of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The horror at the sight of the Twin Towers in flames, the haunting sound of Americans grappling with the dawning awareness that our nation was under attack. The images on the TV screen haunt my imagination: one tower in flames, two towers in flames, the Pentagon in flames, the collapse of the first tower, the collapse of the second tower….oh my God. My stomach churns.
I remember in the days after the attacks hearing stories of heroism from members of the LGBT community: Father Mychael Judge, the NYC Fire Department chaplain killed in the shadows of the Twin Towers as he ministered to the injured; Mark Bingham, a passenger on United Flight 93 who, along with fellow passengers, heroically forced their plane to crash into the Pennsylvania countryside rather than allow it be used as a weapon of mass destruction. Today we pause and remember the men and women who lost their lives and ask ourselves, what lessons did we learn from their example?
I learned one important lesson: that every American has the potential to be a hero — be they gay, straight, black, white, republican or democrat. Reflecting on that terrible day I realize the damage one person can do, and the salvation that another can provide.
I remember how we, as a people, set aside our own deeply held inadequacies and on that morning reached out to one another. In millions of quiet moments we, each, realized our own power. We stopped playing small, for just a moment, and reached out to those who needed us most. On our darkest day we did something truly extraordinary – we put into action our ideals and lived the American experience. We realized, amidst terrible violence, that we are each equal before God.
September 11th is a tragedy, nothing will ever change that. But today, as I turn off the TV and reflect on what I have seen, I pray to remember the memory of Judge, Bingham and the countless others who died seven years ago. Their sacrifice reminds me that we each have a role to play and I need not fear my own path.