Monday, September 12, 2011

Grateful for America's Uniqueness-more reflections on 9/11

Three thousand names! The reading of the names of victims of 9/11 was the centerpiece of the commemoration on Sunday,9/11/11, ten years after that awful moment in our lives, a moment that changed the face of the entire world.
Those who watched their TV screens were afforded the added visual dimension of a photograph and an age, which added a greater sense of reality to the public recitation.
So many of the names were mispronounced; as a matter of fact, if called upon to write out those names, most of us would not know how! The scope of ethnic variety and national diversity was staggering! The World Trade Center-a microcosm of NYC and the USA, housed a veritable united nations of peoples and ethnic groups.
As one name followed the other, it became clear to me,on an emotional level, how unique and extraordinary America is in this world. No country anywhere, perhaps with the exception of our neighbor to the north, Canada, can claim a population of such diversity and difference. Given our population numbers-300 million-the American reality is sui generis on this planet.
How daunting a task, I thought, to achieve some consensus and mutuality, a sense of unity and shared values, so necessary to govern successfully, from so many disparate groups.
And yet, in face of this challenge, the greatness of America lies precisely in its extraordinary amalgam of people, all of whom are bound together by the dream of personal and political freedom.
Ethnic, cultural or religious background mattered little to those who committed this evil act-no distinctions were made by the terrorists-they were attacking Americans and it was the American who was their enemy.
Perhaps one of the reasons for such murderous hatred is deeply embedded in the psyche of so many people who simply cannot abide by the notion of human freedom that allows each one of us the right to be ourselves. How impossible it seems for nations and groups, religions and ideologies to tolerate, with understanding and respect, the commitments and ways of life of others. If anything makes America singular and a model to be emulated it is not its military power, wealth or technological dominance. It is its internal cultural , intellectual, social and spiritual structures that embrace us in the canopy of freedom, tolerance and an abiding respect for difference and diversity. This is America's strength and uniqueness; for this we all can be profoundly grateful.
9/11 is a powerful and painful reminder of the American dream and promise to this world. Let us hope that we can achieve our dream without repeated nightmares of terrorism and murder.

Grateful for so much-reflections on 9/11

Unexpectedly, I found myself riveted to the television screen for 6 hours as the commemoration ceremony in honor of the victims of 9/11 unfolded. My wife sat beside me and for most of the time, we stared at the images with tear-filled eyes. The ceremony was perhaps one of the most poignant and simple expressions of sadness and hope that could be presented to New York and to the world.
When considering the capacity for gratitude at this time, it becomes fairly obvious that all of us experience profound gratitude to those heroes of the police and fire departments who risked and lost their lives in the performance of their duty as the rescuers of others. Additionally, we are most grateful for the many average citizens who likewise stepped forward to help, sacrificing their time, effort and even health in the process.
What struck me most as I listened and watched family members recite the names of the victims and share brief, simple and often poetic personal expressions of love and loss, were the everyday, ordinary things and experiences that these loved ones now miss because of this tragedy.
A son expressed his sadness in not having a father to show him how to play baseball; another child was pained by not being able to hug her daddy; a brother indicated that a lost sister's meatloaf is something that is deeply yearned for; a wife would give anything just to see once again her husband's smile or deep blue eyes. Parents bemoaned the absence of their "baby,"desperately praying against all reality that they once again hear their child's voice, touch her cheek, kiss his lips.
SImple everyday things; these were the constituent parts of the fabric of life and love so painfully missed by the thousands of family members and friends. I don't think I heard one reference to success, wealth or celebrity-merely the emotional and spiritual substance of human life, a substance that we take for granted not realizing that it is the very stuff of our human existence.
What do we have to be grateful for?
I leave it up to you to figure out as we pay tribute to these fallen heroes and ordinary people-however painful and frightening the reliving of that traumatic moment was, I pray that through our tears we catch a clearer glimpse of the endless blessings bestowed upon all of us.