There are moments in History that are never forgotten, standing out in our minds as beacons of remembrance. For Americans of the older Generation the question you could ask was, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot? They will remember exactly, it is one of those beacons, for those in the UK and Commonwealth it is “Where were you when Lady Diana died?”
But the entire world stopped and watched in stunned, shocked, silence together when 9/11 happened.
As reports of hijackings and crashes, images of carnage and destruction as well as courage and heroics began to flood our senses, we joined all those of previous generations who could say, “I remember exactly where…..” Amidst the surrealness, the fears, the anger, a slogan, not original to our time but an inherent quality instilled in humanity by God himself, emerged. “NEVER FORGET”. A plea, birthed by our desire to make sense of the unexplainable, by an awareness that the ever-present, first in our minds and on our lips question of “why”, could never satisfactorily be given or understood and by an insatiable need to not let tragedy be in vain. Within the briefest of time, signs and placards with this saying began appearing, not just at what would forever be known as “ground zero” but everywhere across the world.
The events, and aftermath of 9/11, were not limited to the “dividing walls” that humanity creates and hides behind. This was not a single nation’s problem, this was an attack on the collective “us”.
Indeed 9/11 was only the first, attacks followed across the world, and were not limited to the U.S.A. The result was not what the terrorists intended. Communities pulled together. Voluntarism was at an all-time high. Church attendance increased. Men and women stood and dug and gave and worked and cried and lifted up prayers together as buildings fell. And for a while it made a difference. Tasks were accomplished, money was raised, the balance of emotional recollection and essential revival emerged, and “unity” was achieved. The slow healing of a gaping wound began.
Here in New Zealand the reaction to the attack on our soil, was “love” and “unity.” Here instead of Muslim extremists being the antagonists, ordinary Muslims, ordinary people, our neighbours and friends in our community, attending their place of worship, to pray, were targeted and murdered. New Zealand’s reaction, Love! We embraced the survivors, gathering around those who had lost loved ones, with the message, you are not outsiders, you are not separate – You are US! This hurt all of US! They are US!
On this anniversary of 9/11 I encourage everyone to reach out with LOVE to those for whom this anniversary is still a wound – those who lost loved ones. Stand with them and remember those who died not just on 9/11 but in all of the terrorist attacks that followed it.
What I believe to be true, is that the fixation on the bad, negative aspects of the past, makes it difficult to see community, makes it hard to see mutual culpability and shared blame and facilitates division, animosity and the continual reopening of wounds. I don’t intend to do that here, rather I want people to remember that after 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, people stood TOGETHER, the divisions didn’t exist for a while. We need to all remember and reach out to others with Love not Hatred.
We have now all faced a different, faceless enemy together – Covid 19. Our world really is NOT the same any more, but each single individual can play a part in what our NEW NORMAL is going to look like. Sadly with social distancing a necessity, the new normal means it is more difficult to show people love and acceptance, you need to think more about how to do that, what can you do instead of a smile – which can’t be seen behind a mask? What can make people feel loved as a replacement for a hug? We need to work on this and find ways to breach the walls of division safely to pull our communities back together.