There are certain dates within our lives that we remember most vividly, be they joyous or sad. 9/11 is one of those days. My congregation in Long Island was approximately a one-hour drive from Manhattan, and many NYC Firefighters lived in my community, some of whom died on that fateful day. A police officer on my street later developed a serious lung disease. The impact for me was profound as well as personal.
The distance in time these 18 years later has been instructive, as we in Pittsburgh have not yet reached the one-year mark. Permit me to share some of what I continue to learn:
We never fully heal, but are always healing.
A sight, a sound, a smell, a touch, or a taste can trigger a powerful memory, frequently causing the person to be re-traumatized.
On September 12, our color, religion, sexual orientation or political party did not matter. We were all Americans. On October 27, the same was true.
Mr. Rogers was right. It is easy to find the helpers.
While humans are capable of horrific acts, they are equally capable of sublime acts.
There is more good in the world than bad.
It takes time and careful planning to create appropriate memorialization.
No one owns October 27.
There are likely many more lessons that I have omitted, but this is the best I can remember after lying awake at 2:00AM. Alas, there is a growing body of information to help guide us, as well as too many opportunities to share what we have learned with communities that have suffered post-October 27. I had hoped that the playbook that we were creating would sit on a shelf and gather dust. Unfortunately, we have had to share it before it is finished. But upon reflection, if Pittsburgh is able to share comfort and strength with newly-afflicted communities, it is another unintended positive outcome of the heinous attempt by one individual to destroy us. Yes, we lost eleven beautiful souls, whose loss we will feel for the rest of our lives. But he failed. Mir zeinin do. We are still here.
May the memory of all we lost on 9/11 and as a result of 9/11 be for a blessing.