On September 11, 2001, I was working as a chaplain at the Quaker, Friendly Center and Prairie View Apartments. It did not take long that morning to hear about the attacks on the twin towers, and later the Pentagon.
People were shocked and stunned as they watched in horror as New York City was under siege. Later that day we heard about the plane that went down in Pennsylvania.
Stunned and concerned for all involved, I immediately went to my friend Mary’s apartment — while there we held each other’s hands and prayed silently as we wept.
Later that day, I called my mother and my father to check in on them as well as other family members.
Most of us reading this article know exactly what we were doing that day. As we offered one another comfort, we moved in tandem motion together, standing as one, we were Americans. We were once again reminded of the fragility of life; here one moment, and in a flash, a memory in someone’s beating heart.
Recently on Facebook I have seen postings announcing 9/11, stating people don’t remember this day anymore – for me that is not true, for I remember it well. I also remember the hate and vitriolic rhetoric that spewed forth from many as well.
Shortly after the attacks, I was at a restaurant and overheard a waitress comment to a group, “Just bomb them all, that’s what they deserve.” Those around her wholeheartedly agreed. When she came to refill my coffee cup, I asked her if she wanted all the children of Afghanistan killed or just the elderly; exactly who did she want dead?
Her response was simple: “Just bomb them all.” The radical extremists that let hate be their motivating force that day were wrong; and my heart still aches for the pain that it caused for many in our country and beyond.
Yet, it happened, so I ask myself: What have I learned from that time? Do I continue to live my life with the loving energy as if it could be my last day? Do I check on those I love and care about? Do I pray with the fervency of a woman who has just lost a loving community?
A Jewish friend shared the following quote with me the other day and it has been a beautiful reminder of the great potential for us to become a healthy family, a “rainbow coalition” of all people, of all faiths, of all beliefs. A people who take seriously that God resides in all of us.
“After creating the first human beings, God led them around the garden of Eden and said; ‘Look at My works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent! For your sake, I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil or destroy My world – for if you do, there will be no one to repair it after you.” (Midrash Ecclesiastes 7:13)
Loving God, help me place my anger, distrust or hate into this beautiful garden and recreate in me a new song. I ask for your guidance and a loving community to lead and guide me because I want to create new patterns that lead away from destruction. Amen.
Nancy McCormick is Co-Pastor of Chester Friends and Springfield Friends Meetings.