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9/11: Memorials, Heroes, and the absence of God.

As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, I have noticed some confusion within myself as to how to deal with the tragic events which occurred on that day ten years ago.  One is how we have identified that horrible day by numbers on the callendar instead of a name.  Perhaps this reflects our tech savy age?  Past generations do not identify with 12/7/41 or even 12/41.  What am I referring to?  The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps “the day that will live in infamy”.   To prior generations, a day of national significance in our nation’s history marked merely by a number would resemble something more along the lines of communicating in morse code.  Althought 9/11 triggers a memory of what we experienced both collectively and individually, to identify the day with a date instead of a name leaves a certain amount of ambivalence.

Another aspect is the buildup, anticipation, and conversation this tenth anniversary has brought.  Don’t we usually reserve such publicity for the Super Bowl or presidential elections?  The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is obviously nothing celebratory, but to be taken in somber tone of remembering the innocent taken from us.  A second national Memorial Day if you will. 

Except this new kind of Memorial Day observed is radically different because of who it involved.  Upon being in Washington, D.C. back in April I was moved nearly to tears as I took in the World War II memorial for the first time.  Architecturally it is a great symbol to all the American soldiers who gave so much for freedom, not only for their families back home, but of people they didn’t even know in other countries.  However this weekend’s memorial is different because on the day of 9/11there wasn’t a collective cause we were fighting against as in WWII.  A day later, 9/12 would clarify that national cause.

In my young adult life, I do not recall a time when our nation held a memorial service of such magnitude as the 9/11 one coming up.  Typically our memorials serve as a reminder of the soldiers whose lives were lost for the cause of freedom, but on September 11, 2001, freedom and innocent civilians were attacked. These civilians died from horrific acts of evil, but at the same time we found how heroic the American spirit is as September 11th changed our concept of heroes.

A hero was no longer our favorite sports hero who won a World Series game, NBA Championship, or Super Bowl with the game on the line in the closing minutes.  The heroes from the NYPD and FDNY went beyond the celebrity who creates or acts out heroic tales.  A civilian was upheld a hero.  Todd Beamer and other passengers of flight 93 took down the high jacked commercial airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.  All these people and more were upheld like our brave men and women in the military and given the heroic status they deserved for risking and giving their life for others.

Though our nation has taken down many significant leaders in terrorist organizations over the last ten years, we know the fight is not over, and we wonder how we can overcome.  There is of course military strength, but even president Reagan knew he could not achieve his “peace through strength” strategy against the Soviet Union without appealing to America’s moral fabric.  In his famous Evil Empire speech Reagan said, “While America’s military strength is important, let me add here that I’ve always maintained that the struggle now going on for the world will never be decided by bombs or rockets, by armies or military might.  The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.”

 It is therefore troubling, that on such a day when we need to appeal to America’s strong Christian heritage, where we have been “endowed by our Creator” and given a unique constitutional right to express this faith in public life, New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg has concluded it is not necessary for any clergy to be involved in the day’s events.  Mayor Bloomberg hopes whoever fills his shoes, will continue on his policy, and said in regards to religious leaders absence, “It isn’t that you can’t pick and choose, you shouldn’t pick and choose.” (“Bloomberg:  Sunday’s 9/11 Ceremony a Civil, Not Religious Occasion,” Wall Street Journal, September 9, 2011.)

In a time where we need to stand strong, and exhibit strength, Mayor Bloomberg exhibits weakness.  How can we afford to allow ourselves to appear to be morally neutral to groups who plan on our destruction and Israel’s destruction?  Does Bloomberg’s decision make us look more weak or strong in the eyes of our enemies?  Let’s not forget there is evil in the world, and it is bent on destruction.  Not destruction as in the removal of a few key leaders, but a whole nation, a people, and way of life.  Whenever destruction like that occurs in other countries we call it genocide.

On September 11, upon this national day of remembrance, I will take pride in what makes America exceptional, be thankful for God’s protection at home over the last ten years, mourn with those who mourn, and pray that we might see again what Solomon penned in Proverbs 14: 34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”


This makes sense though. I love the message on this. It is really good. - Aldo Todini

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Former coffee house manager, turned barista and coffee afficianado, Matt is currently pursuing an M.Div at Talbot School of Theology. He's a critical thinker who seeks to be engaged in the culture, while blending faith into life.