My great-niece was born on September 11, 2000. The next year, her first birthday, her mom was arranging a party for her with family and friends. Then the Twin towers fell and the birthday party was over. Mom was heart broken. Today her daughter is lovely and 21 and entering her life with bravado. But, she is a child who has never known a time when terrorism, security threats, and extreme caution have not been part of her life. I remember saying to someone some years later, “Well if Osama ben Laden wanted to destroy the United States, he certainly changed our lives forever.”
A New York Times columnist wrote, “Our children will never know the innocence we did before 9-11.”
Sobering thoughts. But a good indication that we change, we adapt, and in this new reality life moves on. We cannot halt or turn the clock back or fight against what has happened. As a species we approach the new danger slowly, walk all around it. Anthropologists say we have a built in “fight or flight” mechanism when change confronts us.
I have wondered if the world is suffering from a form of PTSD after 9-11-2001. If many of the agonies we have experienced is because we were not able to make that leap from what was to what is. There are still too many trying to force us back. Sometimes it takes a huge shock to change society. I have read about places hard hit by hurricanes or earthquakes who when they rebuild try to build in a design that can hold up to the forces of nature. Perhaps we are still in the throes of a post-9/11 society and we haven’t yet got our feet on solid ground. As a result of that event we have witnessed 20 years of war in the Middle East. Men, women and children who wanted nothing more than to have a life are dead due to bombings, raids, drone strikes. The continuing results of those actions — the very necessities of life — food, shelter, education, medical care, economic stability have been denied them because they chanced to be born in the wrong time and place.
Politically the growing refugee displacement issues tied in to war; the wanton exploitation of our land and resources by the fossil fuel industry; the disruption of basic human rights by governments which are too powerful and greedy can all perhaps be traced back to the fateful September day. Somewhere along the way humanity became too fearful, too greedy, unkind, stripping society of the normalcy of our innocence. We have become more like animals in the jungle, protecting our turf, rather than people of compassion.
The hardest part of history is having to live in that transitional period before we once again find our footing. I look forward to a day when people matter — not politics, not money, not power. In Isaiah God gives us a picture of that time of peace when the lion lies down with the lamb. When swords and shields are broken into plowshares and pruning hooks and nation shall not lift up sword against nation and people of anger and disorder can find peace. When the next twenty years have passed where will be?