This is the Editor’s Note that appeared in the Friday, September 9, 2011, edition of the Oracle, the student newspaper of Oral Roberts University of which I am the Editor-in-chief.
Ten years ago, I was a sixth-grade student in a class of fourteen. I had never been to New York, never seen the Twin Towers, never heard of Osama bin Laden, never known so much horror. I watched the news with my family all day, but it really wasn’t until several years later that the weight of the event fell on me and when it did, I wept.
In the years since, I’ve seen the attacks become the defining fixture of American foreign policy. Two wars have been fought and hundreds of thousands of human lives have been lost because a small group of men decided they wanted to pay America back for injustice done against them. September 11 was neither the biggest nor most horrific mass murder in human history; the difference is that on that day, Satan wrought his handiwork live on national television.
9/11 has become a lot of things. It’s become a political rallying cry, both for Republicans and Democrats. It’s become a call for retribution, uttered by Presidents and pastry store owners alike. Probably more than anything else, it became a call for justice—something about which human beings on the whole understand very little. But one thing it was then, is now, and always will be is something much harder to define.
As a day on which blood was spilled in murder, it is sacred and hallowed. After Cain took his brother Abel’s life, God said to him, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” In that moment, God made it clear he sees the shedding of innocent blood as dreadfully serious, worthy of the full force of his divine justice. When people look at 9/11 in the most basic way possible, it suddenly appears not so dissimilar from the murder that started them all.
It was neither a day on which Arabs killed Americans nor on which Muslims killed Christians. When all nationalities and human labels, politics and international intrigues are laid aside, it was—first and foremost—a day when human beings murdered other human beings. That’s the real tragedy.
So, let’s all just stop for a moment. Sometimes it helps us grasp heartbreak if we stop what we’re doing, quiet our minds and just breathe. If only for the day itself—fittingly falling on a Sunday—let’s make a commitment to shut out the pundits and turn off the talk shows and political propaganda. They are crassly inadequate means of honoring something so sacrosanct.
9/11 is neither appropriately political nor exclusively American but distinctly human and it’s in recognizing its humanity that we can finally begin to understand it. 9/11 is a day that cries out for justice, but that kind of justice can’t be achieved through war or human vengeance. No, for that sort of justice, we can only stand in silent confidence that it will one day come.