A Christian Science perspective: A New Yorker reflects on the 9/11 attacks and the flood of love that poured in the aftermath.
“Never forget who you are...,” the kindly doorman told our daughter as she left our apartment building in lower Manhattan for a university semester overseas in January 2001. Being a spiritually minded man, he was reminding her of her nature as God’s child, and to keep that goodness, to cherish it.
In the spirit of that gentleman’s counsel, we might ask ourselves, what should we keep or commemorate as we remember 9/11 on its 10th anniversary? The answers surely cover a wide range, depending on one’s recollection. Mine is as a New Yorker who watched the scene from my bedroom window 20 blocks north of the twin towers. First the screaming plane overhead, then the unmistakably deliberate hit to the first tower with a loud pop – followed by an unforgettable and prolonged silence that suggested things would never be quite the same.
But what I recollect of that day and the weeks and months that followed is very different from what I commemorate. Surely, on anyone’s list of what to commemorate are the lives of the thousands of people who went to work that morning expecting to return to their families and friends that evening, and didn’t. The brave and selfless first responders, and those who continued to recover victims, cannot be overappreciated. And though it can’t be denied that the heavy-heartedness, even despair, of the city dwellers, as well as those around the country and world, was as palpable as the ash and odor that insisted on filling the air even several months after the attack, something else was concurrent and worthy of commemoration.
That something else was a deep caring – a raw and exposed kindness – that I’d never before seen. It was everywhere, and it lasted. It was as though nearly everyone had turned overnight into earnestly good children. It was apparent in the smallest of gestures revealing the magnanimous nature of man – as the sons and daughters of God, who is Love itself.
Most know the accounts of folks opening their apartments to strangers. Or those making trays of sandwiches and lemonade for people standing in lines that wrapped around blocks seeking word of their loved ones. And the hundreds who stood on the West Side Highway cheering on the workers as they headed to the crater in lower Manhattan for months. The signs of people caring were everywhere. Doors held open a little longer than necessary, tender smiles and compassionate pats between strangers, encouraging words blurted out by cyclists to anyone within range. These were indications that no matter how dark the circumstance, God is with us yet. Love divine abides.
Many were living the Bible instruction of St. Paul: “[H]old fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21).
How we best commemorate “that which is good” is in allowing God-given tender kindness for one another to appear every day, in every act. We needn’t wait for devastation to expose what is actually inherent in each of us; it is our genuine spiritual nature to care for one another.
In the compilation of writings called “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” tracking the building and rebuilding of her church, Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, chose these lines for the epigram from Rudyard Kipling’s “Recessional”: “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet; Lest we forget – lest we forget!”
On Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. ET [23:00 UTC], listen to the live audio stream of a special lecture, "10 years later: LOVE is the victor," a spiritual response to remembering the Sept. 11 attacks, by Marta Greenwood, President of The Mother Church.
On Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. ET, listen to a live chat, "Ten years after the September 11 attacks," with Rebecca Odegaard, author of today's Christian Science perspective, and Tony Lobl, a frequent contributor to this column.