On Saturday, across the US – and in many other parts of the world – people remembered the fateful day nine years ago when terrorists hijacked four airplanes and brought a nation to its knees. The remembrances took a variety of forms, ranging from moments of personal silence to gatherings of noisy protest. There were prayers and patriotism, flags and fights. Names of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives were read. It is right to remember this day. It is a national tragedy, but one that – if only for a moment – brought the world to our doorstep in shared pain and grief.
And yet a pall has shrouded our nation these past years – a pall not merely of just sorrow, but of enmity; a pall that has not been felt since the last “day that will live in infamy.” And this pall shields from us another face to 9/11. This other face also has seen the death of thousands; it is the face of more thousands of survivors mourning the loss of husbands and wives, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers. But for this other face, the havoc was wreaked not on one fateful morning to be remembered by the world; no, for these thousands, death and destruction came more individually in the incessant bursts and bombs of the wars that have ensued over the past nine years. That many of the lost were active combatants – whether soldier or suicide bomber – does not mitigate the grief that their kin must feel. That so many who have lost their lives were as innocent as the World Trade Center victims heightens both the grief of the survivors and their anger at being dragged into someone else’s war; feelings shared by our own friends and neighbors.
In some cultures, the day after Christmas is set aside to box up the festal leftovers and serve them to the less fortunate; after celebrating, sharing with those who have little to celebrate. Perhaps we need a day set aside after 9/11 to remember this other face of that day; after mourning our own loss, to share in the mourning of theirs.