Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The day after the 9/11 terror attack anniversary what, have we learned?

The day of 9/11 seemed almost unreal, shock being as it is. What in retrospect, ten years later, should have been more weighty to me were the telephone calls we received. Beginning the day after family member after family member, friend after friend, called Annelie and me from Germany, asking her to tell Americans of their caring and sorrow. Perhaps there was an empathy – a feeling with – that all we Americans did not sufficiently acknowledge at the time. 

Our very fine pastor, the Reverend Doctor Ed Dykstra, yesterday led an usual worship service. He walked the central aisle of the church, asking for comments from the congregation about this memorial anniversary of a terror attack. His own comment was a question, “What if we had acted on the sympathy of our friends, instead of going to war?” It raises the issue for all of us, “in our own experiencing of trauma, what have we learned?”

I , too, raise this question, not only as an American but as the writer of this blog. As I look at the hits on the blog this week there were ones from Russia, Germany, New Zealand, the Ukraine, Canada, France, and Spain. A late arrival this day was from Moldovia: Annelie and I had to look that one up. Each hit from the world wide web doubtless represents a personal story. It reminds us of that time when we received so many phone calls. We have little way of really responding to those anonymous hits except in imagination. From Spain, we remember that terrible train bombing, from New Zealand, the earthquake. It is like touching finger tips in the dark.

We are all bound together in many ways, certainly the anxiety surrounding a trauma is one of most common. We all face our ultimate physical departure, and it often is not peacefully surrounded by family. In our humanness we can be emotionally overwhelmed, and, even if surviving, re-experience the event. The effects of trauma are well known, and well experienced by many of us. There is, nevertheless, a counter reality that almost always comes along with the overwhelming anxiety: the love, care, and reaching out of others. In the Book of the Acts of Apostles it was first Ananias who reached out to the young Saul. Later it was Barnabas, and then others, Timothy’s mother and grandmother among them. Their caring ultimately had an impact on the history of our human kind. You can feel it in these blogs.

In a world of hurt, there is also a world of caring. How we respond, both in the getting and the giving, has great consequences. On this anniversary of the tragedy of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, that empty field in Pennsylvania with its gaping hole, what have we to learn and to practice? The caring. The caring.

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