The Common Good

I Am the 9/11 Generation

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(This morning's view of Ground Zero from Sojourners and the World Evangelical Alliance's press conference.)

For every American student, September starts a new year. September was a time to put away the suntan lotion and refocus on studies -- on more serious pursuits. Gone were the carefree days of summer, and in came the weather that lives perfectly in my memory -- those almost orange leaves, crisp blue skies, and the faint smell of autumn in upstate New York.

I remember it like this 10 years ago. Fourteen and gearing up for a Varsity volleyball season, I had it all. I had only one worry -- that my dad would forget to pick me up from practice, which he never did.

My class had just finished homeroom -- it was my friend's 15th birthday. I don't remember singing, but I'm sure we did. I moved into my world history class, I think we were on the Greeks. And then, it changed. My choir teacher rushed in and frantically told us to turn on the television. We saw the hallways fill with teachers.

I remember staring at the screen, watching what had to be a movie. It couldn't be real. I was too shocked to make sense of it. A boy in my class started to panic. His dad got on a plane that morning and was flying out of New York. He bolted out of the classroom, racing to find a phone, tears in his eyes, thinking of the unthinkable. His fear blinded him, overtook him and his memory -- his dad's luggage was in the kitchen that morning; he had been rerouted and flew in late the night before and was safely asleep at home. We kept watching the coverage, caught President Bush's hasty, honest press conference, and heard, for the first time, someone say, "war."

The whole of my political memory has been war. Sure, I was around for Bill Clinton, but George W. Bush is the first president I remember engaging with and my memory starts with retaliation, with vengeance, with war. I have nothing else, but I long to move past it, to find a new way to heal, not through violence, but through dialogue.

And so here we are, 10 years later, looking back on a decade of conflict, still so blinded by our own fear that some of us rage against Islamic centers and spew hatred instead of hope. I am the 9/11 generation. It is the event that marks our lives: before and after. But we see our new world only through the fog of war, through the haze of misinformation that has become the norm. We have the specter of war, but it has been so prevalent that we barely notice it. But when we do reencounter it, when it stares us in the face, like it does this weekend, how can we respond? How can we reconcile our fear and our need for closure? Bush chose violence, I choose peace.

Sojourners and the World Evangelical Alliance co-sponsored a press conference this morning overlooking Ground Zero. (The picture above was our view from the conference.) We brought together voices to remind us of every angle of this event, including the global impact, the ongoing healing, the biblical call to reconciliation, and the Christian response to terrorism. More than 5,000 people have also signed our 9/11 Commemoration Pledge, agreeing to stand shoulder to shoulder with people of all faiths, and of no faith, who are helping to build a nation that reflects our best values.

I'm proud of this event, not for what it is, but for whom it represents. For the Christians who welcome Muslims into their neighborhoods. For the Protestant firemen who let Catholic priests pray over them that day. For the little girls who sit at lunch tables with the new kid in school. We've been instructed to love our neighbors and as far as I can tell, persecution, prejudice, discrimination, and picketing outside a mosque aren't part of 'love.'

And so with this September comes another new year, a time to reconsider our commitment to unity, to mourn the loss of life, but to clear the fog of war and move to a more just, welcoming world.

Carrie Adams is media affairs associate at Sojourners.


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