Remember. Never Forget. A 9/11 Reflection

Remember. Never forget. These are the calls, perhaps even commands, of September 11 ever since that fateful day in 2001 when towers fell, lives were lost, and the world changed. We should indeed remember and honor those who died; and we should never forget the “heroes” (we call them saints in the church) who ran toward the destruction, risking their lives – which many of them lost –  to save others.
911The church is good at remembrance, we do it all the time. We remember saints (those flawed followers of Jesus who set an example for us to follow) on the day of their death. We remember the life of Jesus in our liturgical calendar.

At the center of our life together, we gather around a table with bread and wine “in remembrance” of Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection. The mystery of faith that is proclaimed as we remember is, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” Notice how this remembrance looks forward, not back, at an event that continues to shape us. Notice how remembering the tragedy, pain, and death on the cross serve to fuel present and future hope. Remembrance at the table of Christ does not revisit the past grief, nor does it work to stoke unresolved blame or anger over the past event. The remembrance of the Last Supper is an active remembrance that builds hope and celebrates the new life that arises in the wake of tragedy and pain. That is instructive for our efforts to remember; to never forget 9/11.

If what we remember, what we will not forget,  is the rage and anger that filled us all that fateful day; if all we can remember is our grieving hearts and our longing for retribution; if our memory provides for seeds of hate and revenge, then our remembrance serves no purpose other than to enslave us.

If however, we can remember with all solemnity those who died in the attack and find compassion for the world through hearts open to pain; if we can remember those who gave their lives to save others, and glean from that a reminder of how we should face the current destruction of this world with courage and grace, we will have remembered well and hope will be the result.

Our world, at this moment, groans in pain through one disaster after another; it suffers under the divisions we place between each other. Remember that day in 2001 when, in the midst of all the destruction and loss, people came together and loved one another. God brought hope out of the ashes. God is doing that all the time.


Tim Olson


copyright © Timothy V. Olson, 2017


Remembering September 11

So, I was thinking that many of us are thinking about September 11th 2001 today. Our memories of that day may evoke many different feelings. When all is said and done, however, our remembering must always serve today and tomorrow and not be mired in the past. Resentments, hatred, fear, conspiracy theories must give way to honoring those lost; caring for those still struggling.

For people of faith our memories must also look into the rubble and dust of that day in September and see the sacrifice and death that took place outside Jerusalem on a cross on the day of the crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus.  Through that memory we will find the path to hope, peace, forgiveness and love that makes some sense of the tragedies throughout history – like September 11. We need to remember, as theologian Jurgen Moltmann said, “God weeps with us so that we may one day laugh with him.”  God weeps in the tragedy and God will turn our mourning to dancing.  That is the promise and that is the memory.  Tonight, our confirmation students will, as they do each year, begin meeting people of other faiths in our area. On this September 11th, they will go to the local Islamic Center to be with other children of Abraham and learn of peace, mutual respect, and how faith and knowledge overcome fear.  In so doing, the memory and sacrifice of September 11 is honored because hate is defeated by love and terror does not win.

Let us pray:

Holy One, on this day of remembrance, we lift to you the honored dead and the ones who still bear the marks of pain and grieving made on that day.  We remember the sacrifice of police, firefighters, medical personnel, clergy, and so many others who gave life to others and who gave their lives for others.  We remember our rage and terror; we remember our fear and hopelessness and we offer it all to you. Most importantly, O God, we remember you as the one who suffers with us in the smoke and rubble of life; we remember you as the one who brings life from death; peace from violence; hope from despair and love from hatred. We pray for your healing touch and peace on this day and all those to come.  In the name of the crucified one, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Pax Christi,  Pastor Tim