It has been twenty years since the Pentagon, often viewed as the epicenter of power and defense, was struck by American Airlines Flight 77.
It has been twenty years since 184 beautiful souls crossed the thin veil into eternity.
It has been twenty years since our collective psyches were traumatized by the images, sounds, smells and wailing that pierced our souls and our false sense of impenetrability and security.
It has been twenty years since families within our Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences were directly affected and forever changed by the acts of terrorism in New York City, in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.
It has been twenty years.
Remembering is a sacred act that bears witness to indelible moments in our lives. Through the act of remembering, we make meaning, hold space, recall traditions, and give reverence to experiences almost too precarious or precious for words.
It is an act we are invited to participate in throughout Scripture as we mark the movements of our spiritual forebearers. Moses admonished the Israelites to commemorate the day they crossed from slavery into freedom. He also invited them to remember the Lord your God, whose hand brought deliverance. We remember the gift of life given, and resurrected, as we walk through Lent toward Easter. We remember our baptism each time water welcomes another into our holy family. We remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We remember.
As we look back toward the tragedy of September 11, 2001 and think of all that was lost on that day, I also pray we will remember the days that followed –- as we rose from the dust and ashes we rose together, bound by tragedy but united in purpose. We worked together to search for the missing, rescue the trapped, care for the victims, sit with the grieving and steady our trembling hearts.
On the days following 9-11 we came together as communities and as a nation to declare that we were strong, resilient and, at our core, a people of love. We didn’t focus on nationality or hue or tongue, we didn’t stop to examine documents or affiliations or genders, we simply looked one another in the eye and connected on a visceral level. I recall seeing impromptu prayer circles, strangers holding one another as they wept, neighbors ensuring that no one went without, and churches uniting to make a difference. Do you remember the acts of heroism and selfless generosity that flowed throughout our country?
Why does it take horrific tragedies for us to look past our differences to find our common humanity?
We need that love today. As we continue to live through multiple pandemics and strive toward greater equality, we need that unbiased, unabashed love. In the days following 9-11 we brought to life the words recorded in 1 Corinthians 13, understanding that without love we are nothing. Understanding that with love we have hope. Understanding that love never fails.
Now twenty years later, after an ill-fated war borne of that day has come to an end, we have the opportunity to come full circle, welcoming refugees from Afghanistan into our communities, our churches and perhaps even our homes. May we offer this selfless love to them in the same spirit.
Poet Thomas Campbell wrote, “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Long after we have passed through the veil from life into eternity, may we be remembered as a people who loved without condition or pretense. May we love as we are loved by our Creator God, extravagantly and extraordinarily. May this be our legacy in the wake of September 11.
Blessings and Peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling