On Monday, December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt, just hours after Japan’s attack on our bases at Pearl Harbor, stood before a joint session of Congress and with the following words began his speech before describing and describing denounce the attack:
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy….”
I often think of these words whenever the anniversary of the events of 9/11 – or what is now called 9/11 – takes place. It was indeed a day that will live in infamy, both in the collective life of our nation and in the personal lives of all those directly affected by it.
It seems almost impossible that more than two decades have passed since that beautiful and fateful Tuesday morning. And yet, even the passage of time and the back and forth of years have not taken away the pain felt and still felt today.
While it is not necessarily true that “time heals all wounds”, it is true that time offers us a perspective, a perch so to speak from and from which we can look back and look back we find clues and help, even hope.
That’s where I am this year as I remember September 11, 2001.
Let me be honest and admit that this year my thoughts come in the midst of all that is happening in our nation and in the world, a time and a place where there is conflict, controversy and even confusion.
As I listen to the rhetoric, hear the vitriol, watch the violence and see the embracing of so many things that are not what we claim to be or aspire to be as a nation, 9/11 of this year reminds me especially what may be, of what our nation has often done in other troubled times. And from this reality and this history, I find hope.
For those of us who have lived through those trying minutes, hours, days and weeks, there are things – truths, even – that have come to light, and that is what I pray that we can see again.
The first thing I saw was love – a love for the country, a love not based on partisan politics, but on the love of the country and its fellow citizens. It was a love that kept us lining up to donate blood, send money and establish scholarships and help others find and locate loved ones. It was love as the Bible speaks of agape, “seeking the greater good of others”.
The second spirit of that time that I saw was leadership. It was not just the leadership of our president, but that of Congress, governors, mayors, local officials, as well as clergy, teachers, and police. This was leadership at its best, what we often call in the church “servant leadership,” the kind modeled by Jesus and Old Testament characters like Moses, Esther, David, Deborah, and others.
Finally, I saw loyalty – not blind, caustic loyalty to a dogma or an ideology, but loyalty to a truth, a principle, an idea. It was a fidelity to the heart and true meaning of this experience we call America.
As we pause to remember, reflect, mourn, and seek to move forward in a wholesome and even holy way, I pray that the lessons learned from that fateful and infamous day will be remembered, rekindled, and re-engaged.
It is our call and our challenge, and it is a cause to which we can and must give ourselves.
Bishop Timothy Clarke is the senior pastor of First Church of God on the Southeast Side.
Keeping the Faith is a column featuring the views of various religious leaders in the Columbus area.