Many words will have been written and spoken about the incidents in the USA on Tuesday. Images will stick in our minds. Memories will be etched forever. We have all been touched in some way by this attack on what largely amount to icons of the Western World. The Pentagon has long been a symbol for American defence capabilities. The World Trade Center has been a symbol for the American Economy; for many years the world’s tallest building, and until this attack, an important nerve centre for the capitalist economy – over 450 corporations housed within. What is worse, perhaps most unnerving, is that the attack has been executed using the very tools of American society: turning the aircraft on which many routinely travel into lethal and destructive missiles. So many securities we have taken for granted have been undermined.
We have all struggled to give voice to the shock of these events, as they have struck at the heart of our own humanity. We have felt for the workers innocently making their way about their daily routines, wondered about the holiday-makers taking in this landmark, watched in horror as a monolithic structure, seemingly invincible, collapsed like a pack of cards, and along with it our own sense of security. Had someone forecast this event, we would have laughed in the same way as those who laughed at Jesus’ comments regarding the destruction of the temple: “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” And yet we saw it with our own eyes, unfolding like a Hollywood disaster movie, except that this time it was real lives, real buildings. No special effects, just cold hard reality.
It will take days, months, even years to unravel the elements of this drama. Our minds cast back to the Lockerbie tragedy - still working its way through the legal system, and to the Oklahoma bombing, brought afresh to mind with the execution of Timothy McVeigh only recently. But we have been confronted most starkly with our own humanity – the vulnerability of even the strongest constructions and institutions. And we have been given pause to question again the strength of not only the human spirit but also the community spirit, and to ponder afresh the destructive power of things we have treasured as assets.
Ever alert to the terrorist threat, America proved to be most vulnerable from within. We are always alert to external threats, for we can readily identify the danger that is somehow foreign to us, but do not see the danger of the things we cherish as part of who we are. It is in this depth of crisis that the real strength of the things in which we trust are proven.
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will trust in the name of the Lord.
September 16, 2001