“Remembrance begins with deep, personal identification. It begins with remembering the affliction of [others], and marking their pain as our own. Remembrance is a sacred moment when we raise up and hold [our beloveds] to the light of the eternal moment.” – The Reverends Eileen W. Lindner and Marcel A. Welty
9/11 is one of those days that I remember vividly, and most people born before 1996 can say the same. Many of us remember exactly where we were when we learned the news. Many of us saw the footage of the horror on television and were unable to look away. Those of us who lived in the tri-state area, most importantly New York, remember waiting by the phone to receive a call from our loved ones who worked and lived in New York City. Some people never got that call. They got a different call they wish they never had.
It’s been almost 20 years, and that is difficult to fully comprehend. There are many, many people alive for whom 9/11 is something they learned about in history class rather than lived through because of how long it has been. Its effects linger to this day, and yet the effects are so much more widespread at this point. We’ve fought multiple wars about it and changed the political and social landscape of entire countries. We’ve watched the culture of our country shift and new laws and departments be created. We’ve watched many more Americans die over time due to long-term physical and emotional trauma. We’ve seen people dedicate their lives to trying to serve and protect their local communities, to create stronger bonds among neighbors. We’ve seen people come together and people split apart.
Immediately after 9/11 happened, we were able to gather in groups to grieve and try to ascertain meaning and purpose. We can’t do that this anniversary, and so I wanted to share a prayer that was said in thousands of Presbyterian congregations worldwide on the Sunday after 9/11. It just focuses in on that week, the immediate aftermath. Say it as if you were praying with a group. Maybe pray it at dinner tonight with your family or roommates. Maybe light a candle. Whatever you do, do something to remember. It’s important.
This is an abbreviated and edited version of the group prayer written by Revs. Eileen W. Lindner and Marcel A. Welty.
One: We come together to pray and light a candle in remembrance for all those who suffered and died on September 11th in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. We light a candle to remember those who still live and who suffer because of the events of that day. When we remember the stockbrokers, office workers, maintenance workers, bystanders, window-washers and all the others who worked together so valiantly to help each other,
All: We remember great courage.
One: When we recall the firefighters who rushed upstairs as most everyone else was racing out,
All: We remember selfless service.
One: When we recall the police officers who stood to protect and defend the people and performed their duties until the towers came crashing down on top of them.
All: We remember selfless sacrifice for the safety of others.
One: When we recall the thousands of workers, old and young, single and married, American-born and those born in countries around the world who did not escape the buildings,
All: We remember senseless loss of human life.
One: When we recall those citizens who rushed to help and did all they could to help,
All: We remember and give thanks for dutiful commitment to those in distress.
One: When we recall the people who stood in line at the nation’s blood banks to make living donations from their very bodies,
All: We give thanks for those who pass on life.
One: When we remember the millions of Americans who gave so generously of their life and labor to endow funds to help the survivors and their families recover from their losses,
All: We are grateful for generosity.
One: We light a candle, in penitence, recognizing that we have not done enough to address the sources of anger, hate, dehumanization, rage and indignation that lead to acts of violence. In our sadness, horror and shock we acknowledge that our own fears turned murderous and we have sought revenge, sometimes against even the innocent.
All: We confess and regret our own anger and recognize its dangers to our spirits, our health, our community, and others. We know that peace will come to us and to our children only when the concerns of justice anywhere become the subject of political and social will everywhere, and that no justice leads to no peace.
One: In striving for national security and domestic peace we run the risk of confusing might for right and participating in the very behaviors we condemn.
All: Guard and guide our country in our search.
One: We light a candle to light the way to a better world for our children and our children’s children, and all the children of God. We must hold firmly to our unity, borne forward now not of tragedy but of loving-kindness.
All: We long for wise policies that forego short term gain for long-term stability, justice and peace.
One: In a year filled with tragedy we dare to hope for an era yet to come in which the slaughter of innocents, greed, the ambitions of power, and cultural, racial and religious bigotries are but memories.
All: Love, be near us in this age of terror and in these moments of remembrance. Uphold those who work and watch and wait and weep and love. Strengthen us to comfort those who mourn and work in large ways and small for those things that create peace. Bless the people and leaders of this nation and all nations so that warfare may become only a historic memory. Amen.