"The spirit of man is an inward flame; a lamp the world blows upon but never puts out."
- Margot Asquith
Most of us can vividly and painfully remember Sept. 11, 2001. Where were we? What were we doing? Who were we with when news of the devastating terrorist attacks reached us?
It was a bewildering and incredible sequence of events. Nineteen men boarded four airplanes and turned them into lethal weapons of hatred and destruction. We saw the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center crumble to dust as two planes penetrated them like spears. In an open field near Shanksville, Penn., another plane crashed, and a fourth dove into the Pentagon. In all, 2,973 people died and 24 are still listed as "missing."
The losses and the grief affected people of many faiths and ethnic origins. It cut across socio-economic and cultural differences. It impressed upon us the significance of the values of freedom and democracy we hold dear and it confronted us with the need to respond to this challenge with justice and prudence as we protected the nation's security and safety.
Much has happened in America and the world since Sept. 11, 2001. Our lives have not been the same. Getting on an airplane is no longer pleasant. Going into a public building or to a large gathering often requires that we be searched. We have become more suspicious. Thousands of Americans have died in the unfolding wars and conflicts that have engaged our nation. The world remains in a continuous nervous state of alert.
Politics and the economy have not been immune to the effects of 9/11. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are gone. Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi are ousted. The Middle East is in upheaval. Peace seems elusive.
Many prayer services and memorials will take place to remember the events of 9/11 and honor the memories of those who died and the heroic efforts of many citizens 10 years ago. I offer this meditation as we observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11:
- Let us remember those who died as victims of terror, each of them an image of God, a universe of hopes;
- Let us recall with gratitude, the heroism and courage of the first responders;
- Let us remember the compassion and altruism of ordinary citizens who turned to help both strangers and friends;
- Let us bring gifts of faith, justice and mercy to all who yearn for comfort and renewal;
- Let us reject prejudice and violence against those who believe differently, dress differently and speak differently;
- Let us combat stereotypes and refuse to speak or accept words of hatred and acts of intolerance;
- Let us build bridges of civil conversation in order to create a just and caring society for all;
- Let us rekindle hope and trust and let us dream of and labor for a time of understanding, harmony and solidarity;
- Let us strengthen the hands of those who defend and the hearts of those who labor for peace;
- Let us renew our commitment to the values of democracy, "to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for all.
Dennis Sasso is senior rabbi at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis.