A Wreath for 9/11

Today marks the ten-year anniversary when planes crashed into the World Trade Centre and changed New York and the world forever. For me today, the moment is  more poignant as I share this day of reflection and mourning in my new temporary home of Los Angeles. I’m here doing a PhD, but even so, during these weeks those sneaky Americans have gotten into my heart, as any people will. 😉 …And yesterday, my friend Stef shared with me her horror that ten years ago today she believed the world was ending, with her father missing and thought in the vicinity of the less talked about fourth plane that plunged into a field in Pennsylvania. She explained that with the mobility of American families, that almost everyone in the country knew someone living, studying or travelling through New York City.

There has been an overwhelming amount of thoughts contributed about this event, and I wondered whether it was necessary or advisable to put up a blog post. However, it reminded me of the thousands of pictures, wreaths and flowers that were laid under the World Trade Centre following the attack – I think it is human nature to lay a wreath, and this blog is my way of doing it.

This morning, at Lake Avenue Church, Pasadena, the service began with a moving prayer spoken by a serviceman. The hymns were incredibly well chosen, and the overall tone of the event was sombre. A congregation member shared of his Board’s panic in attempting to ascertain information about 250 members of his firm that were killed in the attacks, along with 26 consultants that happened to be working with them on that day. The L.A. branch of this organisation had to take the company’s calls, and act as a hub in finding information on the whereabouts of family members. Four of his colleagues were under the second tower as the plane hit, and witnessed ‘indescribable horrors’. One colleague attended 21 funerals, as the missing were slowly accounted for.

Pastor Greg Wainbright’s sermon this morning was impeccable. He alleiviated any sense of guilt from the victims of the tragedy. He outlined that trouble, in many forms, comes to all in the Bible – both the good and the bad without preference. And he described human reaction to God within tragedy – either drawing us towards Him, or causing us to angrily move away. His prediction on that day in 2001 was, as the President of Trinity International College, that the U.S. as a nation would seek God’s comfort, and healing balm. And in this moment, (as I find it hard to leave behind my academics), for me the puzzling resurgence of American Christians into church in the weeks following 9/11 became understandable. Wainbright mentioned the theological debates in the 1990s had caused people to question how evil humanity really was – are we not all good people? Who is truly bad? And yet, as the Tower buildings fell, this was clearly a false reality. The bubble of American belief in goodness had irreversibly popped. 9/11 had definitively proved to many that humanity is beset with sin.

There is a tendency to blame the perpetrators of the attack, and  today attention falls particularly on Muslim peoples. There is an overwhelming amount of hate mail written by Christians towards those who they don’t understand. I hope you can’t hear it, and it is has only been my experience, but I fear this sort of wishful thinking may be unlikely. This to me goes against everything that Christ preached, and modeled. It is a weak faith, as only broken people could possibly seek to use their church platforms to preach against and demonize any other people group. It should never, never, never be found under the blood-stained name of Jesus Christ. Pastor Greg quoted the theologian Miroslav Volf to also show how we should reflect upon this event, ten years later:

“… Poison comes into my heart… When I exclude myself from the community of sinners.”

This does not diminish the evil of seeking to kill civilians in the heinous act as seen in 9/11. And other atrocities occur around the world today as we speak, not all as acts of terrorism – some even direct acts of Government foreign policy. But the fact is that not one person is truly good. And in this, we are together in solidarity.

The Christian faith teaches that because of this, Jesus came and died. For all who fall short of the glory of God. And this is the breathtaking aspect of the faith, “God too knows how to lose a loved one in an unjust attack”.

Finally, because I am in Los Angeles, I’ve decided to draw from the Mexican influence for the conclusion of this post. In the Pueblos down at Union Station I came across a cross, that was alive. It was not empty, it was teeming with life – birds, flowers, fruits and leaves growing out of the cross, a symbol of death. I posted it at the time, but I’ve been drawn back to that image again in my mind. Because it reminds me of Jesus’ words, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24 NIV). The Christian Gospel is life. It is about life that cannot be constrained or muted. It is irrepressible. And that is my prayer for the victims of 9/11… that they would experience John 10:10 “… real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of”.

I don’t have the luxury at the moment to post regularly, but if you’re wanting to make sure you get my irregular and possibly erratic posts, then you are welcome to enter your email into my wordpress site: https://tanyariches.wordpress.com – and get flashes of inspiration as they come to me – hopefully they inspire you too.

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