Today marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11. The images are still clear in our minds – of twin towers crashing down in NYC, of a plane barreling into the Pentagon, and of another plane which crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers tried to overpower their captors.
The memories for me are also personal and indelible – of a colleague who waited for word of a sibling near the World Trade Center, of a student in my “Spiritual Life” class who had to leave class that Tuesday morning to see whether her boyfriend was safe who had just arrived in NYC on a bus, and of a student of my wife’s whose uncle was assumed lost until three days after the Pentagon attack when he woke up in a hospital and could identify himself.
The years after are also clear. I remember the 2 a.m. call from the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. A fraternity brother had been injured in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Five hours later I gathered with the fraternity members and this young man’s girlfriend to say prayers. Fortunately, he recovered and returned to Drury. And finally, just a few years ago, I remember a prayer gathering for a similar reason when the soldier son of one of our staff members was hit by an IED. He, too, recovered.
Of course, others have their stories. Two wars were ignited by this event. Many lives have been lost in the United States and around the world.
Just an hour ago we met for prayers in Stone Chapel. We remembered the victims and asked for blessings upon their family members and friends. Juan Franco, vice president of diversity in the Student Government Association, gave his perspective as an international student from Venezuela. In particular, he remembered the victims and celebrated that Drury has continued to welcome people from around the world to study in this place. The university has not chosen to build up a fortress against the world but instead to call for an education celebrating global community.
In my own remarks, I suggested that we had a choice in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19 to choose death or life. I prayed that we would choose life. Colossians 3 helps us to understand what that might mean. In an eloquent passage, Paul suggests that we can respond to the challenges of life by clothing ourselves in virtues. He included compassion, kindness, patience, love, harmony, and forgiveness.
I, then, offered this prayer: “May those ways of being touch our lives on this day as we remember the victims, ask blessing on the loved ones they left behind who miss them the most, and pray that we might see a world which puts on the beautiful garments which Paul described.”
May it be so on this 9/11 anniverary and in the days which follow. Peace be with you.