Forgetting 9/11

Once I said to an old man next to me: “Today is Pearl Harbor Day.” He was startled and said: “I did not think anyone your age remembered that day.”

He did.

And he told me his memories of the day the Empire of Japan attacked the United States and made herself infamous, but not forever. Times change and people move on. It is fitting we do so. It is Istanbul now, not Constantinople no matter what I wish.

1453 still matters if you are Greek, but the immediacy of the sack of Constantinople has faded. No man now alive knows the pain of the last Emperor of the Romans as he slipped off his purple shoes and went to fight at the walls.

We can only assume pain we never felt. It is sad to see the Church of the Holy Wisdom reduced to a museum. It is difficult not to be able to worship in the great church of Eastern Christendom, but the wound is not fresh. Those that committed sacrilege face a greater judge than we are and we must pray only for justice tempered with mercy . . .as we hope to find mercy.

But if it is inappropriate to mourn history’s wounds forever, it is equally important not to forget them too quickly. The fall of Constantinople had results that the world still faces. The echoes of the collapse are much fainter, but are still there. How much more is this true of 12/7 and 9/11!

My clearest 9/11 memory is of two students on 9/11 being bored with discussion of the event on the day it happened. They had moved on very quickly indeed.

Get it? They got it and so they thought “Good, let’s move on.”

If holding a grudge is one thing, I knew men of my grandfather’s generation who would not buy Japanese decades later, so is cheap grace. The students knew the facts of 9/11, at least the big ones: they watched the Towers fall. What more was there to say?

It turns out a great deal. They did not know who had committed the deed yet, but they had already forgiven them. With such moderns it is no longer necessary to be sorry, they forgive out of boredom with the topic. If we are not careful, we will react to everything with no memory at all of what has been.

Slavery was not yesterday in the United States, but it still matters deeply. I knew women raised eating bread purchased by a Civil War pension. The racists laws enacted in reaction to defeat were on the books of Southern states in my lifetime scarring another generation of Americans.

If 1453 still matters, and it matters a bit, then 1861 very much counts. We cannot just move on.

Of course, this applies to my life as well of that of the nation. One reason to avoid sin is because of the harm it does and keeps on doing. There is healing, hope, and reconciliation, but they take time. Scars remain. There are things I did years ago I still regret. There are words I said to Hope, for example, that still sting.

Time heals, but time takes time.

So this 9/11, I remember brave men and women who died. I remember heroes. I remember terrorists and murderers. I recall a decent President and a hard fought war on terror.

These are complicated memories . . . still hard to understand, but I will keep on thinking and praying for further healing, hope, and reconciliation. I pray for justice with mercy.

God forgive our sins, protect us from evil men like the 9/11 terrorists, and have mercy on this grand old Republic.


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