The water flows down and then plateaus,
Stopping only long enough in its chaotic swirl
To show its beautiful sparkling light
Swirling ever closer,
small hope present in the last calm breath before it plunges again
Falling to an unknown depth, an unknown place,
a level of loneliness that keeps us separated in our similarities,
a level of humanness that keeps us locked in conflict over our perceived differences.
Always falling until…
These were my thoughts as I stood at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City last fall. 14 years is a long time. So long that high school freshman were not alive when this tragedy hit our nation. 14 years is also a short time, short enough that we are still involved in conflicts reignited on that day. What struck me about the 9/11 Memorial at the time was the way that it represented my understanding of chaos and conflict in the world. An edge…a response…a pause…a choice…a path.
9/11 was not an isolated event, it had its beginnings and it has had many repercussions, but it was an edge, a place where the world seemed to hang in the balance and pause in the silence. Certainly it will always count as a watershed moment in history.
The thing about edges though is that they need a response. The initial response to 9/11 was what many people have focused on today in remembrance. The heroic acts of emergency personnel that performed a duty that they had trained for, that they had performed before, but which took on a new height that day in the face of unknown chaos. The response was a nation coming together. We came together to mourn even though many of us didn’t know personally those who died. We came together to comfort one another as we each wondered what this meant for the future of our country, our families, and our communities. Our response was needed, and it was good.
The 9/11 Memorial at this point is like a big pool, a place with water sprays, rainbows, and a calming, cascading sound. It is a place of calm. This was our initial response as a country, that we found a peace in each other’s arms, in prayer, and the action of our heroes even in the midst of chaos.
Unfortunately this pause, this calm was temporary, and it was quickly followed by a choice which has set us on the path that we are on now. Because the 9/11 Memorial is not a calm pool, but there in the middle turns into an abyss of rushing water falling to depths unseen as you stand before it. It is an abyss where one action has led to multiple wars, even more numerous and sophisticated terrorist groups, and a world that seems to be sinking further into division and hate and anger, both inside the US and outside of it. In the choices following the pause we gave into hate and anger, and worst of all fear. And the unknown depths of that memorial, so well depicted by the artist is where we now are 14 years later after that watershed moment.
Every day we have choices to make both big and small. As I reflect on 9/11/01 I find that the immediate response of rescue workers to save lives even at the risk of losing their own and the choice to honor and mourn lives because of their sanctity is the right choice for us as Americans. Yet the many choices that followed did not hold up that honor and did not honor that sacrifice. We gave in to our baser instincts and into the mindset of our enemies, and the world is a worse place for it. Now 14 years later we still have that choice and I hope that at some point we choose to come out of the unknown depths of fear, hate, and anger and to live in the light again.