I need not remind you that it’s the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It has garnered a huge amount of attention over the past week with ceremonies across America and special programs running one after another on television. Leaving aside the chicken or the egg question of whether the media drives the priority of public attention or vice versa, the public consciousness of America is clearly and heavily focused on this event.
Of course, I completely understand the sentiment driving this attention. It was a horrific tragedy, and any event in which nearly 3,000 people die is worth remembering and the lives lost worth commemorating. The inclination we all have as Americans to identify with the deceased and bereaved in New York even if we are not personally acquainted with them is perfectly natural. We mourn those with which we share a group affiliation more keenly than those with whom we have none. But I doubt many would argue that our grief is inherently more important, or our lives inherently more valuable than those of others.
I am always drawn to view such events in a historical context being the nerd I am, and as such, I am always drawn to the fact that the attacks on 9/11 were not an isolated event which originated and terminated in a vacuum. If one is capable of separating the all-too-often erroneously entangled notions of justification and causation, it is very clear that there were many events in the chain preceding and following the attacks in New York all caught up in the same web. It may be uncomfortable to consider or even unpopular to mention, but tens of thousands of other human lives have been lost in the wake of 9/11, and I cannot help but to publicly declare that the loss of those lives is no less tragic, no matter the difference in circumstances.
I was struck by this photo of a grieving family in Iraq:
(copyright Kate Brooks)
Looking at it, I am clearly reminded of my own feelings of anguish at the untimely loss of my own father. If we focus solely on ourselves and our group, we invite the dangerous temptation to dismiss and dehumanize those outside our range, or even in time grow to hate them. God created us all however, and commanded that we love each other, even those outside of our group. I am reminded of the words of Christ:
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.”
So on 9/11, I urge us to not spend all our attention on watching replays of the violence, or have our focus go no further than the emotional stimulus of the carnage. Had my own father met his end through foul play rather than a car accident, I think those around me would be justifiably concerned about me if I watched the tape of his murder several times on the anniversary of his death. With this in mind, my plea to all of us observing this anniversary is to expand the scope of our vision. Let us invite context into our narrative, let us reflect on the circumstances and consequences of this chain of events, and let us attempt to empathize with those who are as bereaved as we are on the other side of the world.
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