I’ve brought the larger story into 2002 now, and I wonder if anyone noticed what was missing from my admittedly self-centered account. This piece of our lives didn’t fit in.
We said we would never forget. The nation made appeals to god. Celebrities and politicians spoke of national strength, pride and unity. We had a common enemy, and it was not us.
Everyone that was around then remembers where they were then. Like the assassination of Kennedy or MLK Jr., or maybe even the Berlin wall coming down, it was a turning point for individuals and nations. I was at home getting dressed for Court when the first tower was hit. M was dressing for work as well, and my mom was at our house to watch C. She called us into the living room to see what was happening. Like most people, we didn’t know what to think at first. My first thoughts went to my own family and I knew where they were and that they were ok. My next thought was “What will happen next?”
I assume these were pretty standard thoughts across the nation. Sadly, the answer to the first thought for some was that loved ones may be hurt, but that wasn’t my case. I went to Court and arrived at Judge Clawson’s office in time to watch the second plane hit the second tower. This is when people realized it was an intentional attack (incursus) and we feared what might be next. Successful terrorism. The perceived safety and security of United States residents was severely eroded, and there was nothing we could possibly do about it. The next plane could hit any big building in any big city.
The next shockwave was when a third plane hit the Pentagon. Now we knew we were at war, but unlike the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, we didn’t know who our enemy was. We agreed on a common enemy, but where? Who? Planes were grounded across the nation and then one more plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field, after the passengers regained control of the flight deck from the terrorist who would have taken it to a more significant target.
Having nothing else we could do, we took care of normal business in court the rest of the day, while keeping abreast of the news. Much later we learned that President Bush was reading to some elementary students when he learned the news from an aide and went mobile.
2,977 people, plus 19 terrorists were killed by that attack. Osama Bin Laden took credit for it in the name of Allah, the Muslim God. Nationalism, Patriotism, Unity, Fear and untargeted Anger, and Christianity were strengthened. Or were they? People said they would never forget, but never forget what, exactly?
As I’ve said before, words have specific meanings and should not be tossed around recklessly like a ten-year-old might splash in a pool. (res ipsa 1)
So let’s define some terms, just for kicks:
- Theism – the belief in a supernatural god or gods
- Deism – the belief in a supernatural god or gods, which created but do not intervene in Mankind’s affairs
- Christianity – the belief in and acceptance as Lord of one triune god – Jehovah, the Jewish God, along with the Holy Spirit and Jesus, who being God Himself, was crucified and resurrected in accordance with prophecy to pay the penalty for each individual’s sins both before and after His sacrifice.
So when people appealed to God and prayed after 9-11, was Christianity on the rise? I think not. No more so than when certain founding fathers made their “appeal to heaven.” This may have been an act of Deism or Theism, but Christianity has more pieces to it. As I have stated in previous entries, I’ve wandered through Atheism, Theism, and Deism on a personal level, and I recognize the stages as fairly familiar territory.
The Theist may call out to a god with some optimism of some god somewhere responding.
The Deist may call out to a god with some hope that it will change its character and intervene in the unjust disasters of mankind.
The Christian speaks to a known God and accepts his Lord’s will, however much he fails to understand it.
The aftermath of 9-11, like the aftermath of the Boston Massacre, gave rise to Nationalism, Patriotism, Deism and Theism, but Christianity was still several steps away from many of the people desperately appealing to whatever god might give an ear to their troubles.
So then, in the current times of athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, and government allowing Islamic refugees onto our soil, have we forgotten? We cannot answer that unless we determine what it was we were so intent on remembering.
When the Texans of 1836 hollered “Remember the Alamo!” it was a war cry against a specific country with which they were fighting. That cry meant the same thing to its different users: Defeat the Mexicans.
When U.S. citizens say “We will never forget” to some it means we will remember the innocent people lost; to some it means we shouldn’t trust Muslims; to some it means to be vigilant against terrorism (without regard to its motivation).
The problem with us is that we assume that others using the same words we are using certainly mean the same thing we mean by those words. So when Kaepernick took a knee, “he must have forgotten” whatever others were remembering. Or when a Democrat establishes a sanctuary for refugees, “he must have forgotten 9-11 was perpetrated by Muslims.” Or when a Republican calls for extreme vetting of immigrants from Muslim countries, “he must have forgotten that terrorism has many faces and motives.” Or when people of different skin tones turn against one another based on assumptions and generalizations they must have forgotten about the need for unity against common enemies.
I’m honestly not sure what we as a nation learned from 9-11, if anything. Do nations learn things? Or do individuals? We go about our day to day lives worrying about Trump’s latest tweet, someone’s refusal to bake a cake for someone else and whether they are sufficiently justified or not, and the latest category of rights being violated, while our daughters are being trafficked for sex, our sons are shooting their classmates, and we look suspiciously at anyone who doesn’t match our image of ourselves.
Maybe what we should never forget is the heroism of that September Day. We should remember the love of the people who distinguished between the good and the bad by what they were doing, rather than what they looked like or what god they claimed, and then took an active role to help the good and stop the bad. Maybe we should remember that good and bad does exist, but it’s not as clear and visible as we want it to be, and we are all carriers of both.