Back to Normal

By: Dennis Bates

I remember asking myself in the days that followed the attack on the World Trade Center, when will things get back to normal again? It’s been nearly seven years since that happened, and I’m positive things will never be the same again, but I have to wonder as I look back if things are really better now than they were.


In the days that followed the horror of the senseless attack, four thousand people gathered for midday prayer in New York City. Churches filled and emptied several times a day. Wreaths were laid around the fringes of the rubble that still smoldered for weeks after the buildings collapsed to remember those who died there. Pictures of those who were lost there were posted so they would be remembered.


Heroic stories of personal sacrifice were told in every small group. There were little heroes and there were giants.


Firemen and police officers gave their lives to rescue as many people as they could. And many of those who saved so many others, couldn’t save themselves and their coworkers in the end, but they did their jobs anyway, and they did them with a dignity and a braveness we don’t often see firsthand. The owner of a Manhattan tennis shoe store gave panicky people free running shoes so they could get away from the crumbling buildings faster. People stood in lines to donate blood, volunteers flocked to hospitals to do anything they could to help.


We knelt on street corners, in our homes and in our places of worship and wept for people we didn’t even know. We sent millions of dollars to help people who lost everything and we didn’t care if they had jobs or deserved our help; we just responded.


Journalists printed prayers and talk show hosts read scripture and nobody asked if the Supreme Court said it was okay. We just did it. Republicans stood next to Democrats, Catholics prayed with Jews and that day when people ran from the burning buildings there was only one skin color…the color of ash from the burning buildings.


We came together…everybody…and for a few brief days we all worried more about other people than we did ourselves. The needs of the other were paramount, ours were secondary, and for a moment even amidst all that horror, all that senseless tragedy and all those horrible scenes of grief and tears of loss, we were a better people. We looked toward the sky where the horror came from, and then we looked to the heavens where our Hope remained.


But it’s seven years later now and in a way it feels like it never happened. We still attempt to repay evil with more powerful evil; we still seek revenge instead of leaving it to the Lord and we still hate our enemies instead of loving them. We insist that overcoming evil with good just isn’t realistic, and that might, not right is the answer to all our problems.


We have quickly and almost systematically abandoned the feelings of compassion and unity we felt and returned to the mistaken belief that our ultimate hope comes from a strong national defense, not in the name of the Lord. And to me, it’s sad.


Things have gotten back to normal, but why would we prefer normal to what we had when we came together as one for a few days in 2001?

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