I took this photo of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in May of 1981 while vacationing in New York. A few months after they were destroyed I made a copy of the photo and pinned it on the bulletin board in my office in the church I served at that time. I found it again recently while rummaging through a box of photos which I had stored away. So once more I took it out and scanned it in order to include it with this entry. It obviously serves as a reminder to me of what once was and will not be again.
Over the next several days, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers, we will be inundated with opinions, comments, essays, and all sorts of statements regarding what is now simply known as 9/11. The date of that significant horrific moment. The barrage has already begun.
On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was shaving and getting ready to begin my second week as intern at Trinity Lutheran Church in Canton, Ohio. I recall hearing a bulletin on the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. I quickly dismissed it as an accident and continued on with my preparations, since it was almost nine o’clock and I wanted to make an impression by being at the office on time. At that time I lived within walking distance of the church. So I turned off the radio and it wasn’t until I got to the office that I learned that a second crash had occurred, another airplane had smashed into the Pentagon and that yet a fourth plane had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania. That’s when the news hit me that this couldn’t be mere coincidence.
All of us on the staff at that time were glued to the television set in the library, transfixed by the ghastly images on the screen that were being repeated every two to three minutes. And as more information became available about the suspected hijackers of these airplanes, it didn’t take me long to figure out that, from that moment on, things in our society were going to change. Our vision of the world would never be the same again.
When the twin towers were built no one ever imagined they would ever be destroyed, at least not in the way they were. They stood as a monument to our country’s economic success. Only in movies did we ever see the destruction that we witnessed in real life on September 11. Since that time we have lived in an atmosphere quite different from that which we knew before. We live in an atmosphere of fear. We long to return to the comfort with which we are more familiar. That, of course, will never happen.
Think about the changes that have taken place in our country, in our society, and in our world since September 11, 2001. We live in a society that suspects anyone or anything that is different. We are involved in two wars on foreign soil, yet terrorism hasn’t been eradicated, which was the motive for starting these wars in the first place. The numbers of the dead continue to mount and peace is less accessible now than it was then.
Our Scripture readings for Sunday, September 11, 2011, are devoted to the theme of forgiveness. In Genesis we hear Joseph forgive his brothers for having sold him into slavery many years earlier; Psalm 103 sings of God’s boundless compassion; and in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells Peter he should forgive his fellow believer seventy-seven times. In other words—without limits.
As we reflect on the Scriptures this week, and as we approach the 10th anniversary commemoration, let us pray for peace, reconciliation and understanding in our world. It is not merely a dream, but a reality that we can work to make possible with the help of God.