I wasn’t planning to post on this topic at all. Honestly, when everyone started talking about the 10th anniversary, my first thought was, “give it a rest.” But I can’t escape it, since references are everywhere. Some rile me up a bit, like one in our local paper that said an entire generation has grown up with no memory of 9/11. They actually made it sound like no one under 18 would remember! Hello, most people can remember back to age 3, sometimes further if the event is traumatic enough. I had a 7 year old and an almost 4 year old on that date and believe me, they have memories. I tried to shield them, but with it replayed for at least 2 weeks on the news, it was impossible.
Now if I recall, the 7 year old was mostly concerned whether it might happen here on the west coast. Being honest, I told him that I did not think so, but could not guarantee it. He seemed okay with that. I don’t think, long term, that it has had much more influence on him than my growing up during the cold war, with concerns about nuclear attacks that had many installing bomb shelters in their backyards. We of course, could at least point to the Russian commies as our enemies. Islamic extremists are not limited to a single geographic source, and terrorists in general need not be even connected. These kids have grown up with school lock downs as well as fire drills and hear about workplace shootings. It’s a strange world now, when playgrounds are made so safe that the kids lose interest in them well before their teen years, yet schools must be locked down during nearby police actions to protect the kids. Yet the kids seem to mostly take it all in stride.
The younger kids may have been more affected than he was, simply because they were not able to put their feelings into words. Mine began drawing incessantly, going through a ream of paper a month for most of that year. She also stopped sleeping on her own for a while and insisted that mommy accompany her to Sunday school. It’s hard to say how much of that was her own personality traits and how much was due to the insecurity brought on by the events of 9/11 but at least I am sure they played into each other. I spoke to at least one other mother whose youngest child also became quite clingy and refused to sleep alone. They may not remember it well, but they do have memories of 9/11. I don’t think it’s fair to talk about an entire generation being unaffected for another 5-10 years.
So how did 9/11 affect me? Well, I did not know anyone directly affected, though of course I felt it as an attack on our country and sympathized with those who lost loved ones. The most personal thing was how it affected my travel plans, since we were planning to go to Belgium for my sister’s wedding at the end of the month. We checked and our flight was not cancelled, after all, though some guests did have to scramble to find another flight. My older sister decided not to come, but the rest of us went and had a lovely time, even though the shelling of Baghdad started while we were there. The flight over was very interesting, since the flight crew very nearly outnumbered the passengers. We could sit wherever we wanted and they were very attentive. I doubt I will ever have that experience again!
For several years afterwards, we had to sing at a memorial concert with the local symphony orchestra, which I personally found rather taxing after the first year or so. The group would have just started rehearsals and had to sing with little preparation. It was fine at first, but got old after several years. Those concerts only stopped after the economy went bad and affected funding for the symphony.
I think it is quite appropriate that they have built permanent memorials. But I wonder about the wisdom of replaying the video footage at length. It seems to me that that simply brings back the trauma and does not provide healing. I understand the impulse for revenge and was initially in favor of pursuing Bin Laden. But now, after a decade of two wars with many more lives lost, I wonder if it isn’t enough already. I was recently reading a devotional by E. Stanley Jones, which was originally published in 1936. He said he had agreed with the just war theories going into WWI, but had since changed his mind and become an activist for peace. He gave a number of examples of the way war dehumanizes us. The most poignant observation was that war seems to seldom produce anything but further suffering. He pointed out that many thousands of children were orphaned and starving and many widows were grieving. Without the war, most of those families would have been intact and experiencing relative prosperity.
What got to me though, was thinking that this was 1936 and Hitler was already on the move. Unfortunately, the leaders of the nations at the time, refused to stand up to him until he brought the world into an even more disastrous war. As long as there are megalomaniacs, I can’t see how war can be eliminated completely.
At the same time, part of me cringes at the attitudes displayed during 9/11 remembrances. I don’t believe in Christian nations, only Christian individuals who come together in community and service. But as a Christian, I am expected to forgive my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. How is that fostered by seeing, again and again, the horrible scenes of destruction from that day? We finally got Bin Laden, though it took nearly a decade. Can we please stop focusing on never forgetting, and begin to forgive? In my experience, gritting your teeth and forgiving the unforgivable is the beginning of healing. At least in our churches, that should be our focus.