Two decades after 9/11, we have an opportunity to move beyond nationalistic impulses and take stock of what our national response to that event unleashed in our world ever since. It has been a curious phenomenon that seeking justice as our nation did has an underside that often escapes our attention. Perhaps, at this moment, as we grieve our losses anew in remembrance of 9/11, we will find it upon our collective spirit to expand the circle of grief.
Every place visited by armed conflict bears the slow healing of ecological wounds and devastation. Lands are polluted in ways that take decades to decontaminate and may never be restored. Contaminants in the food and water supplies leave their imprints in bodies with long-term health effects.
As a nation, we don’t always honor the sacrifice of those taking the oath of service and risk their lives, and worse yet, fall short on our promise to care for them by making lackluster decisions and politicizing their care after service.
As a nation, after 9/11, we have also agreed to sacrifice individual liberties and civil rights for the sake of national protection, in ways that unduly impact members of color and religious minorities in our communities.
As we cross the threshold of the two-decade-long wake of 9/11, with a deep sense of urgency, we should ask ourselves: How do we remember and memorialize the tragedies that shift our lives? What are our responsibilities of care to heal the personal, collective, and even global wounds resulting from our response to 9/11? What will the subsequent generations learn from witnessing how we chose to move from this day forth?
May compassion, not pride, guide our actions.
May care for the world temper our responses.
May we truly love justice to nurture hope instead of hate.
I am moved by the words of Dr. Ortega and the ways in which our Unitarian Universalist faith calls us to reflect and respond on this somber anniversary. His message affirms that war always leaves scars on human survivors, and on the earth itself, for generations. As UU’s we are called to work for peace and to oppose war. Dr. Ortega simultaneously affirms the need to honor and care for veterans while opposing war itself. As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to honor the worth and dignity of these veterans. Finally, Dr. Ortega reflects on the race and religion-based oppression that surfaced after 9/11 and continues to this day. As UU’s we are committed to honoring racial and religious diversity while actively working against oppression in all forms.
9/11 is an event that we understand in terms of nation; and politics; and international relations. And we understand it in human terms: the violent loss of life; the hatred that fueled the violence; and the response to that violence and hatred. It is here, the response to violence and hatred in our communities, that religion has an important role to play. Hatred and violence are not going away. How do we heal the harm done by violence? How do we work for a more just and loving world, where hatred is less able to flourish? This is our work as individuals and as a community of faith. May we claim our place in society as healers and as activists for love and justice.
Spirit of Life and Love, be with those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Be with the communities that were attacked, and be with all of us who lost an innocence on that day.
May we use this anniversary to feel the sadness of lives lost in the attacks and in the counter-attacks that followed.
Spirit of Peace, bless this world with a renewed vision for harmony; for cultivating and creating, not destroying; for living together through differences, not fighting over them.
Amen. A Salaam Alaikum.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
September 16, 2021