A decade has passed and I was about to turn 60. Two of my grandchildren hadn’t been born. I’d retired that year. There was much less gray hair atop my head and fewer wrinkles on my face. Several funerals, baptisms and weddings. Ten years of sunrises and sunsets. Two presidents; nineteen hijackers.
Today’s TV programs focus on the date a decade ago: 9/11/01.
The peculiar sound of bagpipes waft in the air, the air that stirs the flags in Manhattan this day. Two presidents read, one from the Bible the other from Abraham Lincoln. The bell rings. Silence. The onerous reading of the 2,977 names of the dead on that day a decade ago continues. TV narrators speak in low, staccato voices. Cameras focus in on the waterfalls, the trees, the names carved in the gray granite.Poems are read. Music plays. The litany of names continues in the background.
Yet, occasionally, the camera shows the yellow bulldozers resting atop the dirt piles behind the construction fence just a few feet from the picturesque 9-11 Memorial. A decade has passed. The site is not yet resurrected. Ten years.
Seven thousand miles to the east, the U.S. Military is hunkered down on some godforsaken piece of dirt in Afghanistan planning either an attack or a retreat. It is called revenge or more crudely, vengeance. The mission began on October 7, three weeks after the attacks. It was portentously named, Operation Enduring Freedom. Indeed enduring. A decade.
English poet Wilfred Owen, inspired by the British military advances during World War I, ended his most famous poem with the Latin words, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Yet, his first lines were the most honest:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge.
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
On the 4th of November, Owen was shot and killed near the village of Ors. The news of his death reached his parents’ home as the Armistice bells were ringing on the 11th of November, 1918.
Decades prior to Owen, American poet Emerson wrote, “When a whole nation is roaring patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.”
Was he speaking to us?
One of the TV commentators noted that within a few weeks after Enduring Freedom was launched, the Taliban regime was easily ousted from power and the al Qaeda, who instigated the attacks on our nation, were driven either deep within their caves or out of Afghanistan. Within weeks. By December 17, the last cave complex had been taken yet bin Laden had escaped.
The remembering goes on. The bell rings again. Silence, then the names of the killed continue to be read.
More readings from the Bible.
Surely, in churches all across the nation this morning, the phrase, God bless the United States of America, will be uttered. Yet, what does that mean? Or do people not wish to examine that easily flowing phrase? I think not. Nor do I this morning.