Still Rising

Each September we start our fall season with a “Welcome Back Breakfast” and outdoor worship service. This year’s event falls on September 11—the tenth anniversary of the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center. The breakfast and outdoor service are always a happy, get-caught-up sort of event. This joyful service this seems to conflict with the solemnity of the 9/11 commemoration. But, for me, getting together with our church family and renewing our commitment to sharing God’s love is a wonderful way to look forward on this day of remembrances.

As we approach the anniversary of that tragic day we will, of course, focus on the memories of that day. This tenth anniversary is an important milestone on which to remember the victims of that day. One of the lingering memories for me was the many cars left at the Huntington train station that would not be driven home by their owners. Our community was hard-hit and we need to take time to remember loved ones who were lost.

I will also remember the outpourings of love and support that followed that event. It was a time when our nation came together to care for each other and to work together to find a way forward. Ground Zero became a national memorial site and the work on the new buildings provides a visible symbol of how far we all have moved forward.

One of the most important musical responses to 9/11 was Bruce Springsteen’s album, The Rising. The Boss provided, I believe, the most powerful artistic reflections on the event. The haunting words of “Into the Fire” evoke both the loss of those who died and their sacrifice:

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

Springsteen’s song, “My City of Ruins,” though originally written for Asbury Park, NJ, became an anthem for New York City. But the most important album cut was “The Rising.” I was so moved by that song that it became the theme for our Easter service in 2002. His refrain, “Come on up for the rising, Come on up, lay your hands in mine” was a driving altar call for us to rise above the smoke and ashes and develop a new “dream of life.”

Tragic loss, no matter what the occasion, shakes not only our physical world, but also our sense of meaning and purpose. Our minds scramble to understand, “what does it all mean now?” The best response to such an event is not only to remember those who are gone, but to honor their memory by creating a new dream for us all to live for. My dream for our post-9/11 world includes at its core a peaceful vision of all the world’s religions working together for us to live in harmony. This is a big dream—one worthy of such a large loss.

In the months after 9/11 it seemed we were building new bridges of understanding between different faith groups and nations. Unfortunately, this movement became derailed as the nation focused more on war and vengeance. It is not just politicians who are to blame, it is up to all of us, particularly religious types, to take the time to form the bonds that lead to lasting relationships. This takes time, it takes energy, it takes intentional effort. This tenth anniversary will serve to remind me of how much more we need to do to create a world of lasting peace. This come through developing enduring relationships with people of all religions and nationalities.

As we honor the tragedy of 9/11 may we remember that the best memorial is to live well and full. In this case, working together toward a world where all God’s children live in peace.


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