9/11: Why We Still Have to Talk About It

Two years later, the 9/11 attacks provoke Americans to reflect on some big questions about faith and the human spirit.


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'It's impossible to go on believing in God in the same way'
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, Vice President, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

People often ask me, When will it get back to being normal? I respond that it will get to normal, but it won't get back to normal. When tragedy strikes, life shouldn't be the same. It's impossible to go on believing in God in the same way. For some, faith will be intensified and for some it will be shattered. Tragedy really changes you. For me, a spiritual outlook means not being afraid of those changes.

Spiritual practice can help make us feel stable when things are changing. We often try to create stability by fighting change. Of course, change is just another word for growth, and what spirituality is all about is growth. The trick is to find those practices and that wisdom that let you feel stable, even as everything around you and you yourself is changing and growing.

'Most of us have forgotten the vows we made'
Diane Keough, award-winning journalist living in Northeast Ohio

What happened in the days, weeks and months following 9/11 was like an anthill that's been stepped on. Initially, the ants rush around in wild confusion, trying to figure out what's hit them. But sooner or later, the activity starts up again. The ants go about their business and the damage that was done is repaired and forgotten.

At a party this past weekend, all conversation stopped and everyone looked up when a commercial plane passed over us, flying unusually low. The disruption was only momentary. The plane, like the national alerts that change from yellow to orange and back again, was treated as a minor annoyance and then promptly forgotten. The discussions about the Browns game picked up right where they left off.

Most of us have forgotten the vows we made on September 12th--our vows to change and begin leading lives of significance. Our vows to make this world a better place. We've forgotten our vows of unity. There's plenty of room to sit in churches, synagogues and mosques again. Politicians are back to bickering, name calling, and posturing. Initially, the pain of 9/11 served as an alert to most of us. How do we heal from the pain, but never forget the promises we made immediately thereafter?

I don't know. But tomorrow I'll keep the television and radio on, and listen, remembering how I cut back on my work hours immediately following; how I didn't mind the hassle of the beefed up security; how I held my boys tighter and wouldn't let my husband leave without telling him I loved him. I'm willing to read the newspaper, remembering how I smiled at strangers and let people merge into traffic, no matter how late I was running.

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