A few thoughts on 9/11 at 17

Time does march on,” as the saying goes, but I remain curious about the validity of the other saying that tends to go along with it: “Time heals all wounds.” Does it?

A year ago this past May, my son Joe and I went to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. He was born in 2003.  Our daughter was born in 2005. 9/11 is not a day they remember firsthand but a day to learn about from us and at school.  I remember the Memorial being beautiful and very well presented. I also remember how the wounds of that terrible day felt just as fresh, just as raw and just as painful as it has each year we remember the horrors of that day in 2001. Joe was not alive when the attack took place in 2001, but commented that he could feel how raw it felt to him too.

Many things have changed since 2001, but other things have not. The pain remains real and intense. The wounds of that day are still open for many. There is healing growing from underneath, but we as a people keep picking at the scab, keeping our injuries fresh. The tissues have yet to scar leaving a lasting mark as we mend and are made whole again.

I wonder about that. I pray about that.

I remember quite vividly our U.S. Congress standing arm in arm singing “God bless America” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol shortly after the attack.  I remember the first time I saw American flags hanging from the highway overpasses as a sign of unity, not just strength. I remember the silence of empty skies with all commercial flights grounded for a time and how deafening the engines sounded when they returned. I remember seeing Muslims gathered for prayers in open spaces, people I had no idea were in my community. They were weeping with grief and lament and were just as horrified as I was.

I remember for a moment when the political divide at the time (which seems so tame now) was put on pause. It felt like as a people we were all on the same page in mourning the loss of the innocent, investigating what happened, seeking to prevent it from happening again, and knowing it would take all of us working together as neighbors and citizens to protect our borders from those who might do us harm. At the time we also viewed the attack as an assault on our values of opportunity, freedom, decency, diversity, the rule of law, the protection of rights, the value of each person and the expansion of democratic principles in the world. 9/11 has brought to light some incredible heroism, patriotism, and sacrifice by our people not only that day but in the seventeen years since.

The years since 2001 has also brought to light our more selfish nature as we have moved away from those values. Recent years have brought out into the open an increase in fear based rhetoric, blame, racism and xenophobia. It has become common to distrust one another, our government, our elected officials, our allies and our role in the world. Our citizenry openly questions one another’s patriotism if we disagree or speak up when we do not live up to our ideals. We demand blind allegiance and know only perpetual war. We put each other down rather than build each other up. We cry foul and undermine free speech. We shout out of anger and have stopped listening. We are afraid of the “other” and of one another. We are not who we were seventeen years ago.

I wonder about that too. I pray about that too.

As an American, I join those who remember those who died seventeen years ago today, as I also give thanks for those who continue to put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of our nation and the democracy we hope can be beacon of freedom in this fear mongering, power seeking world. I think about my neighbors, friends  and the people I care about personally. I consider how I can help in the community in which I live. I smile when I consider this amazing eclectic tapestry that is this odd country called the United States.

As a leader of a faith community, I keep thinking about how we might be a people of healing, peace, justice, love, hope, forgiveness and joy in a world consumed by rage, suffering and pain. I lament those moments where people of faith have only added fuel to the fire rather than calm things down. I repent of those times when it was me stoking things up. I seek to do better; love stronger; and rely more and more on the grace I claim to believe in that is ultimately not about me or my efforts but focus on the God who gives it so freely.

As a parent and spouse, I wonder about the world we are giving to our kids, how we might prepare them to not only succeed in it, but also not grow too cynical in life. I hope they can contribute to what is ‘good‘ in this beautiful mess we call humanity on planet earth.

Today I wonder and pray the most about that.


About geoff sinibaldo

Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father, Son, Friend, Volunteer Firefighter, Teacher, Mission Focused Church Leader, Camp Lover, Change Proponent, Seeking Faithfulness in the 21st Century
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