At least a third of the visitors to this site are not from the United States, and I love that so very much! It keeps me conscious of not having country-specific references, and so I did not write anything into this Sunday’s liturgy about a day that changed this nation for forever. I also recognize that 9/11 was one day for us but there are years and decades of terrorism and destruction and life-changing moments in other places. What was for us a moment is for others all they have ever known.
I also had my own, particular story that day which I wrote about 6 years ago. Here is a postcard snippet of that day for me:
On the 6th and 7th floors of the tall, bleak, black structure that covers the block between 40th and 41st on 3rd Ave, many Jews and poeple of other faiths spend their days in the persuit of organizing the Reform Jewish movement in North America. Today is not going as planned, however. No one can work, the big-screen tv has been on all morning, and people that the so-and-sos know are still missing. As religious folk do, a short service is planned for 11am with different speakers and musicians. The 23rd Psalm has been read, and the goy [non-Jew] representative is asked to get up and speak not knowing that the only other speaker is to be the Rabbi-president of the organization. That day that strange goy gives her first sermon in front people as wounded and shocked as she is. She doesn’t know what to say, but has been frustrated by the angry and vengeful voices she has heard in the halls. Then she opens her mouth and the Holy Spirit gives her possibly the best opening-line she will ever have. “If genetic engineering has taught me notheing else, it has told me that I am 99.9% exactly like whomever just did that…and so are you.” The question now becomes, what are you going to do with your .1%?
So with that part of my story in mind, here is how I would pray for this anniversary of 9/11:
God of the faithful and profane, God of the lost and the found, here our voices today as a nation remembers.
Fifteen years ago our stories changed. Planes turned into weapons, buildings were hit and fell, helpless passengers became heroes who decided their own ends, and many struggled to pick up the pieces inside and out. So many moments later we still lift prayers.
We pray for those who floated up and away with the sweet-smelling concrete dust, for those who died in the impact of planes into building. We pray for those they left behind who still mourn.
We pray for those who saw too much and are haunted by it – by rapid responders and schoolchildren, by commuters and those looking out the window with morning coffee.
We pray for those who rushed in when others were running away, we pray for those who came in working around the clocks to clear away the rubble to try and find one more life intact. We pray for the pain and suffering and death that followed them due to what they shifted and cleared away.
We pray for those far away in every corner of the nation and beyond who had their own emotions of disbelief and anger and helplessness. We remember the American flags on car windows as if the entire nation was on its way to one, huge funeral. We pray for an innocence lost, yet again, as a new generation feels the vulnerability of being attacked.
We pray in the wake of the attacks and wars that were started then that continue still. We pray for those who have fought, who are scarred inside and out, who come home to a reality they can’t face. We pray for those lands and people who thousandfold have felt the fear and vulnerability we did that one, fateful day.
We pray that we may continue to learn, to grow in the ways of peace and love, of justice and righteousness such that nothing like this and the aftermath ever happens again.
Holy God, we pray for something too big to pray for. Help us remember the past in order to not repeat the mistakes. Help us love those who we would rather blame and fear. Help us have compassion, patience, love and humility. Help us ever be yours and show your face and love to others. Amen.