Shaken Foundations: Reflections on 9/11

9/11

Image by Bruce Kratofil via Flickr

I wrote this piece back in 2001 and submitted it as a letter to the editor to the Excalibur, York University’s student newspaper. Unfortunately, it was apparently too long to be published, which they informed me about two weeks later. So, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, I think it is appropriate for me to post this now as a reflective memory of that day.

Shaken Foundations: Reflections on 9/11

In a speech on the night of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush told us that though the foundations of a building can be shaken, the foundations of a nation cannot. In many ways, this is true. America will survive as a nation. Its commerce will continue to thrive. Its political and military apparatuses will march on. Yet, in other ways, the foundations are shaken.

I, for one, was shaken. I heard the horrific news of the plane crashes on the radio as I was driving on the 401 into York University. Like so many others, I almost couldn’t believe what I heard, and later, what I saw on TV. The feelings of shock and disbelief soon turned into sorrow and mourning. But before long my feelings turned into fear, perhaps, irrational fear. Echoing what so many others interviewed by the press and media said, I admit that my life was never the same again. As I scanned the faces of the many York students who crowded the television in the East Bear Pit watching the US memorial ceremony on Friday, Sept. 14th, I saw my own reflection. The same mixed feelings of sorrow, anguish, fear and anger were etched on their faces as they were on mine. We have all been shaken.

We have all been shaken in different ways. For some, their faith in humanity is shaken. For others, their faith in God. Yet maybe for some, their faith in themselves. But though our faith can be shaken, we cannot allow these terrorists to destroy our faith. Because if we do, then we have lost.

We need to grieve, yes. And mourn. But we cannot allow ourselves to enter a collective depression. We must work through the grieving process and emerge from the ashes stronger and, almost certainly, sadder. To wallow in a morbid, collective self-pity is to admit defeat.

That is why we needed rituals and ceremonies like the ones held on the day of mourning. We needed something to give us, at least temporarily, emotional, psychological and spiritual closure. I applaud the York University administration for holding a memorial service at the flagpole in the Commons. I joined the many York students, faculty and staff that afternoon in remembrance of the US victims. The lyrics of Susan Aglukark’s songs played and the words of Martin Luther King read for us touched me as, I am sure, it did many of those present. Although Inuit Aglukark and African-American King are both Christians, their words echo the finest aspirations of all religious faiths – love and unity for all.

Therefore, we cannot and should not respond in vengeance and hatred. We must seek justice but not revenge. Already the web of hatred is spreading: the Muslim Arab communities are threatened and fire-bombs have been thrown at mosques. We cannot fight evil with evil. The pressure is already mounting on the US administration to retaliate with a military strike that will make the Gulf War look like a backyard skirmish. As Afghanistan is the prime target at the moment, I fear for the innocent people there. I wonder how the children and women of Afghanistan must feel right now, those who have nothing to do with their current regime or with the prime suspect Osama bin Laden. If I could give a word to Bush, I would paraphrase pop star Sting’s lyrics, “I know the Afghans love their children too” (“Russians,” from the album Fields of Gold).

We cannot allow ourselves to become that which we hate. We cannot behave and act in violence like the terrorists. For if we do, then we have lost.

Bush said in another speech that this is a war between good and evil, and that good will prevail. Good will NOT prevail if we hate instead of love, if we divide instead of unite, if we see ‘good against evil’ as ‘us against them’. No one group of people have a monopoly on either goodness or evil. Good and evil runs right through the heart of every single one of us, regardless of race, culture, class, gender or religion. If good is to prevail, then we cannot stoop to the evil of these terrorists. If good is to triumph, we must not create barriers but we must strive to break down the walls that divide us.

Yes, we are shaken. The foundations of our faith, of our worldviews, are shaken. But we do not have to fall. We can still stand up to evil.

“All people of the world / It’s time to make the turn

A chance to share your heart/ To make a brand new start

And watch the walls come tumbling down

O siem / We are all family

O siem / We’re all the same

O siem / The fires of freedom

Dance in the burning flame”

(Susan Aglukark, “O Siem” from the album This Child)

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About Shiao Chong

Editor in Chief of The Banner, official magazine of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). Formerly CRC Campus Minister serving at York University in Toronto, Canada. (All postings here are my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of the CRC or of The Banner.)
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4 Responses to Shaken Foundations: Reflections on 9/11

  1. Pingback: STAND AGAINST HATE AND FEAR « As My World Turns

  2. It is sad no one listened to your sentiments, which were echoed by so many at the time (and still are today).

    I read someone recently refer to 9/11 as ‘a make-or-break moment for the human race’. I don’t think this is an exaggeration at all. Whether it changes the world for the better or the worse that change is going to be dramatic. And it is up to all of us to encourage a change for the better to the best of our ability. In this way 9/11 and all that has followed is almost like an invitation. Often in life it is witnessing negativity that provokes us into getting off our backsides and attempting to make a positive contribution. Perhaps this is what 9/11 is all about. Perhaps that is what we can make into.

    The good news is that people ARE now waking up to the reality of this event and its repercussions as any glance through the ‘reader comments’ sections of even the most mainstream web articles (such as here or here) will demonstrate.

    This video describes the reality which so many people all over the world are now all coming face to face with, the reality which is described by the evidence itself.

    Such a reality may be shocking and disturbing at first but only until you realize that reaching such an understanding IS our way out of this whole mess.

    This is because to expose evil is to defeat it!

    We don’t need more wars or more CCTV or body scanners…. we need understanding. A scientific understanding, if you like, of the very mechanism of tyranny and oppression. One must understand a disease to cure it.

    And in this information age the exposing and defeating of evil is somewhat inevitable. In fact what we are actually witnessing with all of these wars, the economic theft by banksters and Orwellian changes in society is the violent death throes of a dying age of barbaric control – and of human farming! This control system has run the world for centuries. It is characterized by hierarchy, and by the monopoly of violence by the few over the many. And it is defeated by *information* – by people understanding how it works.

    Humanity (the general public) has never been in so much danger as the control system lashes out and tries to stop humanity from evolving (like a abusive parents trying to stop their beaten and enslaved children from growing up, wising up and leaving home)….. and yet at the same time we have never had so much going for us too. A way out is finally in sight. NOT a utopia…. just a sane world free of war and poverty and not controlled by maniacs. But doesn’t that sound like paradise relative to what we have now? 🙂

    When the centuries old tactics of ‘divide and rule’ fails (as people see through it and refuse to fight any more manufactured, provoked wars) and when every new assault on our freedoms, rights and living standards binds communities together rather than stresses us out then we will have already outclassed our evil opponents (I say ‘outclassed’ because to ‘beaten’ is part their language of violence, and not mine).

    We are always only one single un-indoctrinated generation away from a peaceful, loving, sane world.

    Just my two cents – enjoy the video 🙂

    Like

    • Shiao Chong says:

      Thank you for taking the time for this very substantial comment.

      The video is indeed very interesting, although a little long. Whether it was a conspiracy or not, I do believe that the Bush administration definitely exploited the tragedy for their political agendas.

      Like

      • Hey, thanks for taking the time to read it/ respond to it.

        Yes a lot of this research is very lengthy indeed. It’s just the nature of the beast…

        The flip side is that short sighted research and short attention spans (5 minute ‘news’ headlines on the hour every hour) ensure that we never look beyond the surface and remain with a child like (yet compellingly ‘real’) understanding of the world.

        10,000 cups of water splashed in our faces every day will never create a view of the ocean!

        FWIW I just wrote a (rather hurried) review on my blog of one of the many TV programs dealing with the subject of so called ‘conspiracy theorists’. No matter what one’s thoughts are on 9/11 we should be free to ask questions and think for ourselves. The official story is (by definition) a conspiracy theory, yet this term is now being used pejoratively to describe anyone who questions (or even attempt to verify) any government information and label them a nutter. History shows us that this is a most dangerous precedent and usually a precursor to some kind of violent tyrannical regime.

        One just can not understand 9/11 without understanding the symbiotic relationship between the mass media and the ruling establishment. These days ‘perception management’ is a highly refined science.

        Like

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