Today, I’m thinking about all the lives this date has touched.
And I mean all the lives.
I mean the victims in the towers that morning, and the victims in the planes. I mean their families and all the people their families knew. I mean the men and women who were there to help pull victims from the rubble, to make them well or put them to rest. I mean the ones in New York rushing their children past before they could see the wreckage. I mean people miles away who watched it happening over and over again on TV and thought, ‘How could this happen here? Where will it happen next?’
I mean President Bush, who will forever be remembered in the murky light of 9/11, and the people at the top who are people just like the rest of us, scared just like the rest of us, and who had to make decisions we will never have to make. I mean the soldiers who went off to war and the ones who never came back. I mean the young men and women tortured by the things they saw there, the things they did.
I mean the French when we alienated them, did something so silly as to call our fries “freedom fries”, because they still had the bullet marks in their own doors and weren’t ready to go see more. I mean the Middle Easterners who are fighting a war against America because we blew into their home like we had a right to be there, like they were the terrorists, the ones who might have sympathized with the hate felt by the hijackers and the ones who could never in a million years sympathize with it. I mean the families there losing loved ones just like the families here. I mean the innocents who’ve been bombed in the streets.
I mean the people who feel war is the only way and so better them than us. I mean the people who celebrate lost lives and think this is what it means to be living in our world today, this is what it means to be patriotic. I mean the people who still won’t get on an airplane and the ones who have to go through a whirlwind of suspicion before they’re allowed to board. I mean the people of Middle Eastern background who still get stares and ugly words even if they’ve been here for years. I mean my Muslim friends who have their religion treated like it’s something ugly because a few people made a terrible, deadly decision.
And, yes, I even mean the terrorists themselves, because I guarantee such hatred in a soul is never born, but built.
Because hatred, fear, and violence—these are not bullets shot straight through one target. They are stones dropped in an ocean, ripples that fan outward until they get so faint human eyes may not be able to see, but human hearts can always feel.
Fortunately for our broken world, love is the same way. So are mercy and peace. So is reconciliation. So is hope.
This morning, I stand waist-deep in waste, wondering if right now, there are people in the Middle East watching their televisions and weeping and saying, “They got what they deserved! Just look what they did to my country! My son! My husband! My parents! My children! I would fly a plane into all their buildings if I could!” And I don’t really doubt that there are because I’m sure on this side of the world live people who would blow a whole damn country up because this is what justice means to them. But I know, too, that there are Americans right now waging peace instead of war, helping the wounded, healing the broken, feeding the hungry, building bridges. And I know there are Muslims all over whispering for Allah to help us, heal us, feed us, build bridges of love in our hearts.
So I remember the past, but look toward the future and pray it will be brighter. I know no one can ever die in vain if we don’t let it happen.
From this tragic harvest, we can reap more hate.
Or we can reap more love.
And we always, always, have a choice.