This is the 11th of September. I began the day with an easy run in a soft rain, the gray clouds making the green foliage seem to glow with its own light. It is unusually cool out for this time of year in Texas, perhaps signaling an early Fall. What’s left of my lawn after the heat of the summer and the constant wrestling and crazed sprinting of the dogs will have some time to grow, to stretch out and cover the ground. Fall in Texas is like a second Spring. I love the Fall, so I’m pleased if it comes a little early. It’s exactly the kind of day to relax and enjoy, if only anyone would let me forget.
To most Americans, this day has forever been transformed from the 11th of September to 9/11. As you might recall, something terrible happened on this day in 2001. I’m sure my story of that day is not that different from anyone else who watched from afar: confusion yielding to understanding and that, in turn, to horror. Hours of watching events unfold and helpless to do anything about it. Worse was the feeling that everyone was helpless to do anything about it, shown starkly in the images of those who jumped from the building rather than burn. Why must we remind each other of something that no one could ever forget?
The answer, of course, is that we don’t want to remember, so much as retell and reconstruct. The effort began almost immediately. Our leader perched on the rubble of the fallen towers, a smoldering grave, and promised the chanting crowd that “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” We would turn this story from tragic loss to triumphal vengeance. In his next major speech, George W. Bush sought to counter our fears by reminding us that, “Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.” He asked for our “continued participation and confidence in the American economy.” As we were ushered toward war over the next few months, this theme was amplified. We were certainly going to war, but we shouldn’t worry too much about it. We should live our lives as we normally would. We should go to Disney World. The story of 9/11 has become, like all American stories, a story of violence and consumption. If these are the balms that heal our wounds, perhaps we should just forget the whole thing.
This Sunday is Holy Cross Sunday, the day we commemorate an instrument of torture and death. When Jesus was crucified, his followers must have been confused and horrified. They could not avoid the reality that this person they followed was branded a traitor and terrorist. If they were to continue, they must retell that story, reconstruct it into something that spoke of everything they had done together and everything they still hoped to do. It could not be the story of the end, the cessation of hope. Instead, it must be the story of the triumph of peace over violence. Instead, it must be the story of enough, the story of sharing ourselves into a new world. It must be the story of resurrection and redemption. We must never forget.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about the memory of the crucifixion and the symbol of the cross. What values do we construct with the stories we tell and retell? What kind of world? Who do we become in the telling?
Grace & Peace,