Where were you when the news broke of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States of America?
At 6am on Wednesday 12 last year I turned on my computer to check the emails. One email that morning was from Chris Gilbert. Chris was a full-time Fusion worker on the Sunshine Coast while we were there. He since moved to the US where he met and married Jo. Chris was now working full-time for the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Madison Avenue, Manhattan.
He wrote, "It is a horror here - as I arrived in the office at 9am my colleagues were watching the second plane crash into the second World Trade Centre tower. We stood on the balcony together, looking straight down Madison Avenue to the towers, and began to witness the unfolding tragedy. As the numbness gave way to horror we met, prayed and have begun a vigil by the phones in the church office ..."
Subsequent emails kept us in touch with the practical and co-operative ways in which the various Christian churches of Manhattan were working together to bring practical help and emotional and spiritual support to relatives and friends, as well as to the rescue workers. This was no idle curiosity. We were committed to pray for all those involved. As a community we gathered in the Memorial Hall in Home Hill for a memorial service. Our churches were opened daily for combined prayer meetings.
Today we have reached a time of remembering. Immediate families have never forgotten. The attempt to rid the world of terrorism has kept us all wondering whether the world will ever be the safe place we had imagined it to be.
In the past week, those images have been projected into our living rooms again. Many of us would have watched the TV documentary last night, reliving the trauma, marvelling at the solid common-sense leadership of Mayor Guiliani and the courage of the rescue workers.
But we are not just remembering. We long for peace. Whether or not we believe this is to be achieved with the overthrow of the Taliban and the unfinished business with al-Qaeda, peace doesn’t seem any closer to us at the moment. Whether we agree Sadam Hussein needs to be removed, by force if there is no other way, or whether we fear possible decisions by hawkish advisors in Washington and London, we are united in our desire for peace and well-being in all nations.
We gather too in the midst of dashed dreams and much uncertainty. Appalled by the terrorist violence of a year ago, many of us have questioned the reliance of our western society on economic and military might. The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon have exposed us and left us vulnerable at two of the points of our deepest trust.
We come together, seeking renewed hope. Yes, society needs economic stability and security from attack. But above everything else, we need to renew our deepest trust in God, and in God alone.
© Peter J. Blackburn, Combined Service, All Saints' Anglican Church, Ayr,
11 September 2002