|Photo by Plush Duck|
Yesterday evening, my family and I were discussing how best to mark this most important anniversary. Aside from attending Sunday morning worship services, I suggested watching the film United 93 since we had never viewed it. My husband, who purchased the movie, replied, "I don't think I am ready to watch that yet." Given that response, I decided to see how the day unfolded rather than try to plan some elaborate commemorative observance.
This morning, as I was preparing to leave for church, I turned on Fox News and began watching the Ground Zero memorial service. I wasn't able to catch very much of it as I had to leave for church after about the first thirty minutes. I did begin to hear the names of the dead prior to getting in my car. As I traveled down the freeway, I continued to listen to the service on the radio. At some point, a news commentator described how a family member of one of the victims physically traced over the name of her loved one on the plaques that surround the new reflecting pools. It occurred to me that if I did not have a grave to visit, if I had never received the remains of a loved one, that simple act of touching the name of a loved one would be a tremendously meaningful act of remembrance and healing and closure, like me traveling to Minnesota for the first time after my father died and placing my hand on his headstone. Tears welled up in my eyes right then and I worried that I would cry through church*
Around noon, I headed to a picnic and enjoyed the company of friends and loved ones, much like I do on Memorial Day. In fact, the entire mood of the day felt very similar to Memorial Day: remembrances, fellowship meals, cookouts, small flags in the cemetery, family get-togethers, etc. Maybe in future, September 11th (rather than Labor Day) will be the holiday that marks the beginning of fall at my house.
It makes sense to bookend my summer, my time of rest and relaxation, vacation and fun, with days of remembrance and recognition where I pause to remember the people who died so I can enjoy such a season of renewal in peace, comfort, and security.
Yesterday, my daughter and I participated in a local heritage event exploring the history of the Civil War in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of that conflict. At the closing ceremony, Abraham Lincoln (a re-enactor) recited the Gettysburg Address and a local pastor recited a prayer written by a Civil War soldier before giving a benediction. As "President Lincoln" spoke, I made a point of focusing on the words of the Gettysburg Address, meditating on them in the context of the 9/11 anniversary and the dedication of the memorial at Ground Zero. I encourage my readers to do the same and, to that end, I offer the words of that famous address so you can think on them now.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.May you and your family have a time of quiet remembrance, dedicated service, and family connection this September 11th. My best wishes to you all.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate --- we can not consecrate --- we can not hallow --- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us --- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion --- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain --- that this nation, under God, shall not perish from the earth.
*Sadly, and embarrassingly, my pastor never mentioned the 9/11 anniversary in church. Neither did we sing any patriotic songs (like "God Bless America"), nor were any prayers offered for the victims, their families, or the first responders. Basically, the event went unrecognized.