Anniversaries are often celebrations to remember good times, stories that have mellowed over the years.
This Saturday will mark the twentieth anniversary of one of the roughest days in American history–the terrorist attack and resulting destruction and death on 9/11.
At significant points in history, people tend to have clear memories of where they were and what they were doing during a particular crisis, moments that affect us nationally; the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the first man walking on the moon.
Or the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, Flight 93 where the passengers overpowered the terrorists and diverted the flight path to crash into a field.
We have an entire generation born since then, young men and women who can’t attune to the unreality of watching planes crash into buildings, people leaping out of windows to their death, the crash of metal, concrete and glass that took so many lives.
I was at our headquarters, meeting with our new group of participants for the yearly program I’m part of. We were just beginning when someone ran into the room, too shocked to speak, motioning us to come to the main area where a TV was on.
I stood in horror and watched a plane hit the South Tower; a short time later it collapsed on itself. The North Tower, the first hit, collapsed shortly thereafter.
It was a terrible, horrible day. Hope felt excommunicated from our country.
Twenty years later, we’re still in the midst of terrible days, where the world makes no sense and people insist on doing bad things to one another.
Do you remember when someone hurt you so much with their words or attitudes that you questioned who you were? Do you remember what it was like to be the focus of someone else’s anger or blame which made you wonder if things could ever get better?
Memories of pain, loss, and grief create moments that are hard to forget. Years pass, and often the memories of those agonizing times grow worse with age. Unresolved anger, regret, bitterness only become more insidious with time, like a weed that kills all the beautiful flowers with its growing presence.
Jesus understood anger, betrayal, blame, and hatred. He knew what it felt like to be the One who was misunderstood and unforgiven. His response to those who hurt Him wasn’t a typical response.
“Your familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.” Matthew 5:43-45
The remembrance of 9/11 brings sadness to many who lost loved ones. But it was also a time when people became heroes with unselfish acts of kindness. Where individuals stepped out of their comfort zone to help those in great need, often without a thought to their own safety. The crisis brought out the best in people.
Enemies abound in this world, but we are too quick to identify others as that without taking the opportunity to know them, to think of them as more important than ourselves.
To remember to give a kindness instead of repaying anger with anger.
Those are the memories worth savoring.