Yesterday marked the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. Our youngest child was born that February and so his entire conscious life has been lived in its shadow. Many of you, like me, can remember what you were doing and where you were as that numbing day unfolded. I remember calling Dana from my office at the church to say I had just heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Such horror and sorrow that would come in the hours and days after.
I don’t have the perspective – nor the wisdom – to understand how different our nation and world are because of that day. Thousands more have died in a seemingly endless string of wars and terrorist attacks. Our collective security has risen to obsessive levels of concern and focus. That national unity that emerged in the moments after was fleeting and in some ways we are less united than I can remember. Not to mention the erosion of economic security… the loss of civility and good 0ld-fashioned manners… the temperature of our political and social debates. 9/11 may not be the direct cause of all of this darkness but its shadow falls across it all and all of the reality we live today has been shaped by it.
It is dark outside but not yet night. The same events that might lead us to despair or cynicism have led some to rise to acts of incredible heroism and sacrifice. Maniacal, evil faith has deepened the genuine faith of many. Acts of violence, collective and individual, had been answered by countless acts of compassion and love for neighbor.
I remember reading an article that argued that these dark days were an argument FOR God’s existence and providence rather than AGAINST. I wish now that I had saved it somewhere that I could lay hands on it now. He wrote that rather than asking why such things happened… we should instead ask why not more of them? Why does the world not plunge into night? Why is there not more evil – and far less good – than we see even on such days as 9/11?
Because despite our human frailty… despite, from the Christian perspective, our bent to sin and wrong… there is still a Light that shines in that darkness. There is still a Providence that seeks the good and salvation of all. However dark it may be, it is never completely night.
In his epic tale of light and dark, evil and good, J.R.R. Tolkien puts in the mouth of one his minor characters these words that seem appropriate to the day:
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
(The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, II, 6)