There is healing in remembering
By Mike Haynes
Just before last Christmas, my wife, Kathy, and I stood in line with hundreds of people, most wrapped in coats, warm hats, gloves and scarves, in cold New York City. We waited to enter a gleaming new building. Reassuringly in this age of terrorism, New York police officers in black helmets were stationed nearby, each with both hands on his military-style weapon.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has been open since May 2014. Now we’ve reached the 15th anniversary of the horrific events of that fall day in 2001, and I miss the unity America had after three airliners struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the two massive World Trade Center towers where Kathy and I were standing last December.
It also is disappointing that the opening of the memorial and museum and of the shining new One World Trade Center that pierces the sky next to it in November 2014 have received so little attention.
Yes, both events were in the news, as was the opening of the glitzy World Trade Center retail mall just last month. But how much notice have we given to the triumph of rebuilding compared to the continuing fear of terrorist acts and the focus on U.S. racial issues? I’d bet that average Americans know more about which celebrity is dissing whom or which football player is disparaging the national anthem than they do about New York’s comeback from 9-11.
Steel girders from the base of the original World Trade Center
stand tall in the underground National September 11 Memorial
and Museum in New York City. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
That day 15 years ago was an event, like Pearl Harbor, that shouldn’t be lost to future generations. In the Old Testament, Joshua thought it important for the people of Israel to mark with stones the spot where the Ark of the Covenant had crossed the Jordan River. “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:7)
But we can’t just look back. Life goes on. After the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, the Israelites eventually rebuilt the temple. Nehemiah then noticed that the city’s walls remained in ruins, and he organized their reconstruction. “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no
Sept. 11, 2001, didn’t bestow disgrace on our country. But rebuilding showed our resolve. The memorial makes sure we won’t forget the 2,977 people who died then or the six who died in the 1993 WTC bombing.
The rise of One World Trade Center, glassy and futuristic, proved that business and tourism would return to lower Manhattan. And the new mall, which on the outside looks like a white, soaring eagle and on the inside offers upscale shopping from Apple to Michael Kors, puts American capitalism on display again in lower Manhattan.
But the memorial and museum take us from the materialistic to the human. They remind us of American values – first responders rushing into buildings that are about to collapse, a husband’s phone message to his family as he suspects he won’t survive, a survivor praying for others as he makes his way down flights of stairs to safety.
Some have tried to keep the most important American value – trust in God – out of the memorial as much as possible. But it’s there, whether in a cross-shaped metal beam or in trinkets people have left in their grief. On a Statue of Liberty replica covered with small items such as a red, white and blue bracelet and a little Texas flag, I saw a wooden, ornamental cross. A few inches away was a piece of paper on which it appeared a child had drawn a U.S. flag and had written, “God bless
us every one.”