There are days in this life one does not forget. Some personal (e.g. a wedding day) and some of communal scope (e.g. man walks on the moon) those days are burned into memory uniquely and brightly. Of course, soon new generations come along that do not share the memory and it becomes merely an event noted in a photo album or a text book. Such events have consequence far beyond what happened. If the event has personal effect the consequences can be deep and emotional. But if the event is communal, even if you are connected to it personally, the consequences can change a culture.
Needless to say, the events of September 11, 2001 are such memorable events. Moreover they were not just communal, but global, and everybody knew the world had changed that day – the question was how. And so an event that should have united us against evil has divided us. Oh sure, we put on a show of unity for a while – flags flew high – but it did not last long and soon we settled into a debate about responses. Wounds that had been managed but never healed since Vietnam soon began fester. Now we seem a nation united only by our desire to defeat “the other side.”
Yes, we mourn those we lost that day and yes we celebrate the heroes of that day – that is genuine, but we quickly move on from it and settle into the debate about legacy. It’s not that we trample on the heroes and the lost as if they did not exist; it is that we treat them as objects in our never-ending debate. They should be the point, but instead they simply are points in something else.
This September 11 I weep for the lost, I thank God for the heroes and I pray for the nation. Lord knows we need it.