Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Flaming City

"The Flaming City" #NeverForget911 #DigitalArt 
Eighteen years ago, Manhattan was burning.

It's a bit mind boggling to think that kids in the USA turning 18 after today weren't even born when the terrorist attacks of "9-11" took place. For a Young Senior like me, it's hard to wrap the mind around this generation-and-a-half GAP in the adult world.

When I think about it, I realize that I was around 8 months old when Kennedy was assassinated. For today's newly minted legal adults, "September 11, 2001" has a similar kind of whole-life-epoch-defining significance that "November 22, 1963" had for my generation growing up (the date rolls right up in my head effortlessly, even though I have a hard time remembering people's names or why I left the room five minutes ago).

Obviously these are two different events, with different implications, but both were national catastrophes that deeply marked the experience of political and social life for the generation that grew up in their shadows.

I'm trying to get some perspective for myself, to empathize with what 9-11 "feels like" for kids today ... including my own kids (John Paul is the only one who has any memory of it).

On another, more basic level, 9-11 was a moment of brazen, unmasked evil that killed thousands of people, brought terrible suffering to families and friends that continues to this day, directly impacted countless people (some of whom I know personally) and our whole nation, and indeed shocked every human being on the planet who hadn't entirely lost their conscience.

Then (like now) there was an 80+ year old man in Rome who had seen many brazen evils in his life. The next day, he spoke according to his profound human experience and in the manner befitting his office. He knew well that nothing he could say would "make the suffering go away," but he also knew that it was necessary to remember that evil - for all its terrifying and totalitarian pretenses that seem to overwhelm history - does not have the last word.

Here is what Pope John Paul II said the next day:
"To the President of the United States and to all American citizens I express my heartfelt sorrow. In the face of such unspeakable horror we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity’s problems.
"Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it."