The fact that I was in middle school on September 11, 2001 might be reason enough for you to disregard my reflections on the event entirely. I wouldn’t blame you. So, I don’t attempt to offer a moving account of my thoughts as it all occurred, as vivid as they might be.
What I would like to consider was the day after. I would like to suggest that reflecting on 9/12 is as important for me as remembering 9/11.
For myself, and probably most my age and younger, the gravity of what was happening as we watched the events of 9/11/01 unfold on our school television screens was still unclear. Perhaps, you could say that about most people tuning in to the morning news that day. It has been interesting to watch this week as many people took the opportunity to recount where they were and how they received the news. Social media was flooded on Tuesday with thoughts, prayers, and reflections on the way in which that national tragedy changed lives. Whether you speak about a physical imprint on families, an emotional toll on cities, or a socio-political dent on the lives of the entire nation, the 9/11 attacks had profound implications.
If 9/11 brought shock and horror to a middle school boy, on 9/12 emerged a response. No matter how much I wish I could, I really can’t remember all of the factors that contributed to that response. Some were political, some geographical, cultural, religious, personal, and social. I speak of the forces, influences, and voices that swirled around as millions clambered to come to grips with what had happened. On 9/12/01, I began formulating a way of reacting to the situation. Such tragedy had, no doubt, elicited a response. It was unavoidable.
Fear? Action? Anger? Hatred? Panic? Defense? Anxiety? Denial? Apathy? Resentment?
To be honest, I can’t say that I remember exactly how I reacted. But I know that this event, for thousands my age, constructed a barrier between Westerners and entire people groups. It pitted impressionable minds in America against entire nations, of which they knew almost nothing about. For many, it led to the generalization of entire populations. It contributed to words like ‘terrorist’ being associated with appearance, and aided in making Islam culpable by association. If 9/11 bred hurt and sorrow for so many, 9/12 bred misunderstanding and oversimplification by so many more.
Fortunately, life experience has led me far away from those notions. This week, in due course, we pay homage to the tragedy and victims of 11 years ago. But such reflections would be remiss if they did not also consider 9/12. I don’t remember exactly how I reacted, what I hoped would happen to guilty parties, or what people or groups became most misunderstood. But this 9/12 my own reflections most certainly led to repentance. For the foolish ways of a 12 year old and a culture that encouraged it, Let us pray to the Lord:
For not questioning deeper.
For not considering the unseen implications of perpetuating hate. .
For not choosing to speak louder where I saw injustice and softer when I felt wronged.
For the times I thought violence was a solution and for every moment that I hoped for collective revenge.
For desiring peace of mind with no consideration of the cost.
For valuing security and comfort over peace and reconciliation.
For having a disposition toward parts of God’s creation that was anything less than embrace.
For not knowing.
For not knowing that my prayers were more valuable than my opinions.
For celebrating violent advance as common victory.
For ever thinking that the lives of people in one place were not as precious as those in another.
For not praying more passionately, more carefully, and more often.
For these things and many more, I pray to the Lord.
There is no telling what the next event will be that will shape our world quite like that did – in what nature, time, or form the next day of infamy will come. Unlike in 2001, I am resolved to react differently. I am resolved to stand, speak, and walk in a very particular way should my life encounter another 9/12. I pray you might be, too.