It’s been an unusually busy week – the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, the death of the Queen, the ascension of Charles to the throne and many other noteworthy events. However, as an American, I would be remiss if I didn’t focus on the most important thing that has ever happened on 9/11. Of course, I am referring to the tragedies that occurred in New York city at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fourth plane crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania 21 years ago today.
It was one of those events that those of us who were alive at the time will always remember. Not only that, we recall where we were at the time of the terrorist attacks. I think one of the things that was so remarkable about that morning was the fact that we were seeing events unfold live as they happened. When we look at other national tragedies, such as the Alamo or Pearl Harbor, we didn’t have the instant news around the world that technology now permits us to have.
In a way, the world has become smaller. When you look at the polarity throughout the country, and the world, today – 9/11 was one of the last times that we all came together in a spirit of national unity. We acted as one. Gender barriers, race barriers, age barriers and even financial barriers gave way to people helping people in a way that is very rare.
Remarkably, one of the most overt acts of solidarity came at the request of Queen Elizabeth, the beloved monarch of Great Britain who passed away this past week. Few people realize that the Queen broke with more than 600 years of tradition several days after 9/11. During the daily changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and all other royal palaces, the one of seven organized marching bands plays popular and traditional standards music as part of the festivities.
This tradition has existed for hundreds of years and on 9/13/01, Queen Elizabeth ordered that the band play The Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. It was the first time that this sort of deviation from history had ever occurred. The audience outside the palace was filled with Americans who were in London at the time and it was incredibly moving to witness this act of solidarity with the United States.
I had never heard of this kindness ordered by the Queen until this week as the newscasters were talking about her alliance with the United States and how much our friendship meant to her. I was compelled to go on YouTube and watch the performance myself. It’s worth doing if you haven’t seen it.
There were many other acts of solidarity following the terrorist attacks that day. President Bush visited Ground Zero, Mayor Rudy Giuliani ran things in New York and the world watched in horror and anticipation as bodies were recovered and the hunt for those responsible was inaugurated.
One of the things that we just can’t understand, and I have been asked this many times, is why bad things happen to good people. This side of heaven we won’t know the answer. But we are called to a higher standard as followers of Jesus – in fact, a humanly impossible standard. The thoughts of Jesus on retaliation were made quite clear in the aftermath of the attack. In March, 2002, a fireman cleaning up debris ran across a Bible “welded” to a piece of metal from the World Trade Center. In fact, the Bible was open to a specific verse and it was taken to a photographer to memorialize the moment.
Today’s verse is the verse that was open and visible to the fireman who discovered the Bible fused to the piece of steel. The verse from Matthew was a chilling reminder of how Jesus wants us to live – not a very comforting thought in the wake of this most devastating attack on our soil. In this popular verse, Matthew tells us, in Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
While this admonition is difficult when it comes to the murder of so many Americans on our own soil, it is a good reminder and encouragement that God wants us to work together for good and overcome our differences. In this day of such animosity, we would be well served to turn to the pages of the Bible and use these verses to pray for peace for all of us – especially those families and friends of loved ones who perished on 9/11. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…