To my Brother, the Stranger
(written on 9/12/01)
I did not know you. I never met you. If I had seen you, you would have been simply a face in the crowd. My thoughts never touched upon the possibility of your existence.
And yet. . .
And yet when I heard of the tragedy of losing you, you were suddenly my brother, my sister, my best friend. You were the comrade I never had the opportunity to meet, the face I could sketch simply because of how many faces you are. And every time I open my mind, it is to realize anew that you were a person, you were loved, and now you’re gone.
It’s a shock I never expected to feel, a pain no man, woman, or child should ever have to endure. And I did not know you. How much worse must it be for the widows, the orphans, the childless parents, the brotherless sisters that were made on that day? How much worse again for those who yet know nothing about the fate of those dearest to them?
It is a pain no one should have to gaze on, much less be consumed by. It is a piercing that should quickly tear down all barriers until there is nothing left but a shaken humanity, a resolved people, a united nation. It should induce the best in man when he looks at evil, when he sees the dancing in his enemy’s camps. It should make him realize that the sickness he feels, the death he sees is a presence to be ignored no longer.
I pray that somehow this change in our lives will be used in a way to make us better. I pray that as I walk down the streets of my untouched city I never forget that it could be gone in a moment. I pray that as I pass a stranger I remember to remember that he is not a stranger to someone. I pray that soon all our fears are exhausted and we are left instead with hope. And I pray that we never take for granted the greatness of our nation, lest through our disregard it lose that thing that sets us apart.
I can never say the right words to those who are grieving, because there are no words to be said. I did not know you. I never met you. All I can offer you is the love of a face you have never seen and the prayers of a heart that is reaching across the miles to the strangers it now calls brothers.
May God enfold us in His arms until the terror goes away. May He settle his peace over us until the rivers of tears run dry. May He comfort us until we become victorious. And may we never forget that it is He who will lift us from the mire. Today America has united in common anguish. Tomorrow we will rejoice in justice. And all the world will know that this is a nation that God has blessed and will never forsake. Let us be the first to proclaim that.
I have posted the above before on the anniversary of 9/11, and I like to do so anew each year to remind myself of my own reaction and what I observed. I knew no one directly effected by the tragedy--and no one left untouched by it.
But as all the stories poured in, what I most loved to hear were those miracles, large and small, that our Lord orchestrated amidst that terrible day. The alarm clocks that didn't wake people up that morning. The viruses that kept healthy folks home. The heroes that waded through the wreckage for the chance to save a life.
Today, let's focus on the hope and heroism that rose from the ashes. Let's share the stories we've heard of God's provision on that day.