The towers fell as evil rained
destruction from the sky,
Our nation roused to anger
as we counted those who‘d died,
But the spirit of our people
would not falter or dissolve
To eliminate this evil would
become our firm resolve.
So we stand as one, united,
as we turn to face the night
And dispel the evil shadows
with the beam of freedom’s light
We will not forget the fallen
nor the families left to mourn
We will heal the cratered cities
and the symbols, once reborn,
Will illuminate the future with
the message of our time:
We stand fast against the darkness,
let the bells of freedom chime!
– pc ‘01
Today is a somber day, and will always be so for our country. Families are gathering as I write at the new Freedom Tower, which has risen from the ashes of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. This is the first year that no politicians will speak at the ceremony there. It is for families of the victims only. A moment in time changed the lives of these people forever. Who can measure the loss of a parent or a son or daughter in the lives of those left to mourn? It is simply incalculable. What, really, can rhetoric and platitudes do to relieve their pain or replace their loss?
All the promises and rhetoric in the world cannot change the impact of this event on their lives, or on the lives of countless others who have lost loved ones in the wars that have followed. Let us not forget them, or any of the young men and women who have served their country, facing situations and environments too hostile for us to even imagine. Our heartfelt thanks must go out to all of them on this day, for surely the events of 9/11 paved the path they have had to follow, paths that can be difficult and far different than they had planned.
Maybe, someday, people will live in a future free of days like 9/11. Exactly how we get from here to there is a path still shrouded in shadow. To shine some light on that path, people will have to begin to let go of hate, envy and the need to force their beliefs and ideologies on others. They’ll have to build on the similarities between us and be open to accepting the differences. They will, simply, have to give up their pursuit of power over others, whether it be through acts of terror or threats of nuclear annihilation.
As Marilyn French writes in her book, Beyond Power, ” We all have power–the capacity to influence, alter, affect the lives of those around us. And until all of us use our power in the public world, it will continue to be dominated by those who are driven to domination, rather than by those who wish to use power as a means to non-controlling well being,.” Later she continues, “The idea that we can transform the world may seem Utopian, idealistic or just simple minded. But I repeat what I said before, the world will change anyway. It is not inconceivable that human beings can participate in forming the direction of the change…In rearranging our lives, we participate in rearranging the life of society…. the past had its moment; we have ours…All of us members of transitory generations help to create the bridge by which the past continues into the future. But if our lives are filled with self-denial, self-punishment, empty rewards, illusory goals and the mutilations of power and obedience, then neither our lives, nor our legacy is worth the pain. Only pleasure in the journey can make the journey worthwhile; and our pleasure in our journey is a legacy to those who follow.” And finally, she concludes, “There is no final end; there is only the doing well, being what we want to be, doing what we want to do, living in delight. The choice lies between a life lived through and a life lived; between fragmentation and wholeness; between leaving behind us, as generations before us have done, a legacy of bitterness, sacrifice, and fear, and leaving behind us, if nothing more than this, a memory of our own being and doing with pleasure, an image of a life our young will want to emulate rather than avoid. The choice lies between servitude and freedom, fragmentation and integration. The choice may be between life and death. There is no choice.”
I have always clung to the belief that love will conquer hate and goodness best evil, but at some considerable cost. Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I witnessed the unfolding of the civil rights movement, the struggle for women’s rights and equality, the Kent State massacre, the loss of life in the political quagmire that was the Vietnam War. We,as a transitory generation, are charged with holding on to what has been won through the blood, sweat and tears of those who preceded us ,and dedicate ourselves to using our power to continue to move forward and create that bridge from past to future.
As a contrast to fearing the world is too full of hatred and greed to ever be free and open to love and a life lived with pleasure and delight, I leave you with my very favorite movie voice- over. In the beginning of the film Love Actually, we see airline travelers arriving at Heathrow Airport, running to greet their loved ones with hugs and kisses. We hear the voice of Hugh Grant say:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed. But I don’t see that. Seems like love is everywhere. Often it is not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there: fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.
When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls of the people on board were of hate or revenge; they were all messages of love…”