The families who suffered the incomprehensible loss of loved ones on September 11, 2001, as well as our entire nation observe the fifteenth anniversary of that fateful date. All of us remember with deep emotion.
I always apply Jewish vocabulary to the commemorations of 9/11 because the words impart meaning and significance. That first horrible week ten years ago was America’s Shiva. Every year since, an American Yahrzeit.
Now marking the fifteen years since September 11, 2001, we know we never can lose sight of our best principles, nor abandon our ideals. We live as we choose, and as we must. Time is precious precisely because we never can know what it will bring us. We continue to travel and to fly. We attend public events and gatherings. We still meet and greet new and different people.
We know our dreams and prayers. We strive to live our lives with confidence and poise. We cherish the opportunities of this world, and in a responsible and balanced manner make them the content of our days. This is how we defend freedom, human dignity, our values, and our way of life. By being optimistic and trusting in the promise of a brighter future.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the people, places, and spirit of our country. On September 11, 2016 we declare that we are in tact and whole, as we continue to define the meaning of what took place and how we responded.
Fifteen years ago we lived history. Our vocabulary and perspective changed. Suddenly, we were aware of people, acts, and ideologies against which we stand firm with all good people.
On September 11, 2001. We were all much younger. Our children and grandchildren grew up during the last fifteen years in a world less civil and more disturbing. Their consciousness fills with terror alerts, airport and building security, the sudden news of terror plots foiled or carried out, the longest and, arguably, the most complicated wars in American history.
All of this against the background of an event our younger generation understands more or less, and remembers more or less. None of us grew up during easy times. Every era and every generation face their challenges and difficulties. Yet, this generation that has come into awareness over the past fifteen years needs our help.
Our children and grandchildren need perspective and hope, as do we. Over the course of the years all of us have paid a spiritual, if not a moral, price protecting ourselves. Today as we share in the responsibility of safeguarding our nation and each other, together we also need to strengthen the soul of our nation.
In 1938, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke in Frankfurt, Germany. As the world crept toward last century’s confrontation with great evil, Dr. Heschel spoke with genuine piety and faith.
“The greatest task of our time is to take the souls of men out of the pit… Soldiers in the horror of battle offer solemn testimony that life is not a hunt for pleasure, but an engagement for service…”
Rabbi Heschel concluded his remarks with this vision. “There is a divine dream which the prophets and rabbis have cherished…It is the dream of a world, rid of evil by the grace of God as well as by the efforts of man, by his dedication to the task of establishing the kingship of God in the world.
We should not spend our life hunting for trivial satisfactions while God is waiting constantly and keenly for our effort and devotion. The Almighty has not created the universe that we may have opportunities to satisfy our greed, envy and ambition. We have not survived that we may waste our years in vulgar vanities.”
On this sacred anniversary, we challenge ourselves to remember this call. We remind ourselves to cherish the promise and potential of justice and goodness. We remember to take responsibility for one another. We help our children to know a safer, saner world.
How do we mark this fifteenth anniversary of 9/11? By being kind. Those who attacked us wanted to demean our values and demoralize us. They didn’t. They can’t. Act with kindness toward others. Demonstrate your respect for all whom you meet. Share your caring, your compassion, and your goodness. This is our purpose and our dignity. Be kind on this anniversary and every next day.
This is the best way to honor the memories of those 3,000 lost souls and the legacy of these past fifteen years since September 11th. For though we are no longer naïve about the world we live in, we are also not resigned to living in a world of terror.