9/11 — 20 years

We were right to be angry at the great wrongs of 9/11, but at some point, rehearsing that anger year after year doesn’t move us toward justice, love, or the forgiveness Jesus commands of his followers. It moves us toward resentment, hostility, and bitterness, with all the trouble it brings (Heb. 12:15).

We never knew how to mourn. We just knew how to get angry.

We need to learn all over again how to handle the memory.

How we remember is as important as that we remember, as theologian Miroslav Volf has argued, and we should discipline ourselves to remember “both with the desire for knowing truth and with the desire of overcoming enmity and creating a communion in love.”

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September 11th exhibit set to open in Middle River


It’s been 20 years.

It was a fundamental change in our society. I was reminded of so much in a Netflix short series called “Turning Point.” The footage of the day… the phone calls recorded from people who knew they weren’t going to make it out of the towers that day… the phone calls from Flight 93…

The wars that followed… especially Iraq. I think of that time period and being so naive and losing a close Muslim friend over my bent thinking at the time, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

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20 Years

We approach the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. We have, as a nation, not handled this event very well in our collective lives. It is hard to know how a significant anniversary like this will go.

20 years. A lot of change. A lot of shifting. A lot of revealing.

20 years. It is hard to know what lessons have truly been learned and what has gone largely unresolved or ignored.

20 years. We have not mourned. We have not lamented. We have not collectively examined much. We are less for it.

20 years.

Where I failed after 9/11

It’s been 19 years. I can still remember where I was sitting. The memories of halting the retreat where I was attending, huddling around the one TV with bad reception, the shock… calling my family…

Coming out of that time I also knew the word I had from the Lord: “Prepare the Body. The world is different. Get back to discipleship.”

This is where I failed. Miserably.

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I still remember

I still remember where I was 18 years ago. It was a Tuesday morning at a prayer retreat. The morning session had just begun when someone came in and gave us news that a tower had been hit in New York City.

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Why do we fear relationships?

The issues of race, ethnic divides, immigration concerns, are such hot button issues. 

Immediately following the events of 9/11, I immediately contacted my Muslim friends to make sure they were okay. I wanted them to know I wasn’t angry with them and I wanted, above all, to make sure no one else was taking anything out on them right away. It was in knowing these precious friends I could understand the nervousness and fear they felt in the months following 9/11. 

I reached out further by organizing events to put Christian college students with Muslim high school students. The director of the Muslim school was so deeply appreciative and during the event he pulled me aside and thanked me. Then, the inevitable question: “WHY are you doing this?” 

“The more we know, the less we fear,” I responded. 

And it works both ways. When these white Christian students got to Muslims, they feared less. The Muslim students getting to know at least one white Christian helped them not have a knot in their stomach as well. 

In our own community, the police are very pro-active in building relationships so kids don’t see a cop and have an urge to clam up, turn away, or run. The community has “coffee with a cop” days. The police sponsor open gyms at the middle school and high school. They get to know kids and kids get to know them so if a 9-11 call happens and a cop may know a kid or adult involved, they can have a bit more civilized conversation in the process and things don’t escalate as much. 

Interestingly enough, it is because I know police officers and also have friends who are from the St. Louis area that also know the racial tensions in that area that I know the anxiety on BOTH sides. If we are on the outside looking in, we tend to look at “systems” and want to diagnose the “system.” If we actually know people and have relationships, we know “systems” may be part of the problem, but the situation is a lot “stickier” than solving a legislative issue. 

I prefer the mess of relationships. I am weary of the ideological bombs we throw at each other. I can hunker down in my ideology and feel good about winning an argument, but at the end of the day, I’m just hunkered down with my ideology feeling good about myself. For some that’s enough. For me, the world is much richer than that. It’s messier, but it’s richer.