9/11: A Day of Infamy? NO! A Day When I Knew I Was In the Minority.

I am sure I have left out many things that happened in my life and our country's during the hours and days immediately after the attacks of 9/11/2001; but I felt the need to share my thoughts and memories even though they will be incomplete.

We lived in the small town in southern Jefferson County/Louisville, Kentucky, called Ludlow.  I was the pastor of the Mount Holly United Methodist Church.  My wife, Gay, had lost her sight thirteen months before, broken her hip ten months before and was asleep in the bedroom upstairs. I actually wrote about this event shortly afterward; but I changed email addresses and ISP and, added to the  loss of computer hard drives, I only have the memory and not the record of that event and what followed now.

Our family room also contained my home office and computer which faced away from the television.  I had on the Today show; but I was facing the computer screen working on the following Sunday's worship bulletin earlier than normal when I heard something in the background about one of the World Trade Center building's having been hit by an airplane.  I must not have heard this news at first because almost immediately after I turned to face the screen following my hearing about the first airplane, I saw a second airplane hit the other World Trade Center tower! I knew immediately, as did the Today Show folk, this was no accident.

Bulletin preparation was suddenly unimportant as I sat on the couch transfixed by the images on the screen.  Before long I also heard of a downed airplane in a Pennsylvania field and an airplane having struck the Pentagon.  Assumptions were immediately made by the TV pundits; but it did not take long before we heard that all air traffic had been banned across the USA, then of a few Muslim men who had caused all of these tragedies and the loss of lives of hundreds of people.  Since Ludlow was within a few miles of a major airport the silence in the air later that day and beyond was almost palpable.

I had to go to the church office; but I tried to keep track of what was happening by going to one of the rooms in the church building with a TV but no antenna or cable connection to watch news about the event and report back to the church secretary who also did the same for me.  I learned how the fire in the World Trade Center buildings had spread, then watched (I do not remember whether it was a live broadcast or replay) the buildings fall to the ground as though being imploded.  I heard of the bravery of the first to respond to the fires and watched as people ran from the WTC buildings and from nearby locations to try to escape the cityas  a cloud of toxic smoke, ash, and dust came toward them as they tried to get away from the area.

Before Sunday morning I heard of the support our nation was getting in response to these tragedies from people around the world in virtually all, perhaps all of the countries in the world.  I saw video of people in Muslim countries holding flags of the United States of America and with signs honoring our dead and damaged citizens. I should note that most of those countries likely also lost citizens in the attacks.  For me it became a time of hope for building bridges, increasing  bonds between the nations of the world.

As time went by I learned that the world trade center was filled not only with American citizens but citizens from many more nations.  To quote my friend, Rikka Wallin, "More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.  A total of 372 foreign nationals (excluding the 19 perpetrators) perished in the attacks, representing just over 12% of the total."

I almost immediately saw what I considered to be a crazed reaction to this tragedy in the almost unanimous desire for retribution.  American flags were suddenly scarce commodities as it seemed nearly everyone wanted one outside their home or on their clothing and patriotism eventually went to the silly extremes of renaming French Fries in the cafeteria on Capitol Hill "Freedom Fries," because the French wouldn't join us in the wars that followed.

Anyone who didn't jump on board the patriotic band wagon was labelled a traitor, or at least unpatriotic.  When Natalie Mains criticized President Bush (justifiably, in my opinion), radio stations refused to play music by the Dixie Chicks, some of them even destroying their recordings.

Seeing USA lapel flags everywhere I made a decision.  I am a citizen of the United States; but that is a tertiary position to being secondarily a citizen of the world but, as a follower of the Way of Jesus Christ, as we learn from Christian scripture in Philippians 3:20, primarily a citizen of heaven.

So, even though I knew it would likely cause offense to a lot of my friends and family, but also certainly to those who were already prepared to wage war against "the enemy," even though no one was sure exactly who the enemy was, I could not jump on the patriotic, retributive bandwagon.  After all it was citizens of Saudi Arabia who were those who staged these attacks, "..why are we planning to attack the people of Afghanistan?" I thought eventually.

I also was distressed that virtually no one wanted to be introspective about our role as a nation in creating the attitude of hatred for the people of the United States of America because of our own actions toward other nations of the world  seemingly constantly at war against some enemy or another.  So I went to my computer, downloaded a United Nations Flag, reduced it to lapel size, printed it in color, and pinned it to the lapel of my jacket and wore it for several weeks.

I wrote emails that were essentially blogs calling for peace rather than retribution, for working with the United Nations and the world community to find solutions.  I watched as the Patriot Act took away (in quite an unconstitutional manner) many of our rights as citizens, all in the name of "security."  (I should note that scripture also would say that the only security for at least Jews and Christians is the Holy One, not guns and bombs.)

And I watched as friends and family, if they didn't publicly ostracize me for not being gung-ho about attacking that perceived enemy, got very quiet.  It wasn't that I didn't believe we should be doing something to reduce the chances that more attacks would happen within our borders, it was that I wanted it to be a reasoned, sane, cooperative response of the nations of the world.

Since then I have watched as we did not start the limited police action to try to stop what we call Al Quaeda but an attack on the entire country of Afghanistan.  Then I watched as we declared an illegal, immoral war in Iraq, based on a lie.  I have watched as thousands of our military folk have been killed and thousands more have come home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and large numbers of others have committed suicide.  (More of our soldiers have committed suicide than have been killed, I read.)

We also killed thousands of Iraqi and Afghanistani citizens and created hundreds of thousands of refugees, as well as thousands of orphaned children.  We criticize the use of chemical weapons to kill children while we use drones and see dead children as a result of what we falsely call "collateral damage."

Today I believe that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and other locations has actually increased recruitment for fanaticism within Muslim countries toward the USA.

So, when I remember 9/11/01, it is with many different feelings.  I feel sad that we didn't respond differently. I feel sorry for the families from countries around the world including my own who lost family members on that date.  I feel pride in the way the police, fire departments, and other folk including volunteers who responded to the World Trade Center fire and collapse.

I also feel as though we haven't learned much from the event itself.  We still, not just as the United States but, it seems, the majority of the nations of the world,  seem to believe that fighting with one another will produce peace rather than death and destruction. May we eventually learn.

Tonight, as many folk will be getting very "patriotic" about 9/11/01, I shall be rallying for peace in Lexington.  I believe that is the most patriotic thing I can do.