Here it is, September 11, 2012. Just 11 years ago, the towers came down, the Pentagon was gouged, and a lonely plane crashed in a field outside Pittsburgh before its terrorist pilots could ram it into yet another target. It was a dark day, a day, according to singer Alan Jackson, “when the world stopped turning.” It surely did stop turning for thousands of Americans who died that horrible day at the hands of Bin Laden’s henchmen.
Everybody who lived that day remembers that day. Do you remember the immediate aftermath? It was amazing. I’d never seen anything quite like it in my then 46 years of life. American flags went up everywhere including on cars and trucks. Churches opened their doors for special prayer meetings and people came. They came to pray for the victims, for the victims’ families, and for our country, and many even prayed for our enemies. For the next two or three Sundays churches were more crowded as usual—filled with people looking for hope, looking for answers, looking for something beyond themselves. And in one of the most amazing scenes of all, we saw film of our Congressmen and women, Republicans and Democrats, arm in arm praying together and singing God, Bless America. Nope, I’d never seen anything like that in my life.
On that day and in the few weeks that followed, there was no such thing as Republicans or Democrats or hyphenated-Americans or upper, middle, or lower class Americans. We were all just Americans—united, praying Americans, “one nation under God, indivisible.” Having grown up during the turbulent social revolution of the 60s, the Viet Nam war, and the Watergate scandal of the early 70s, I’d never seen such national unity in my life than I witnessed in those few short weeks after 9/11.
But, of course, it didn’t last. Once it was obvious that no more attacks were imminent, we went back to our old crazy ways of division and hyphenation, class warfare, and what Bill Clinton called “the politics of personal destruction.” We went back into our old ways of not asking what we can do for our country but asking what our country can do for us. Here it is eleven years later, and like the Paul Simon song so aptly says, “We’re still crazy after all these years.”