Newman Catholic Center
Mass of Remembrance and Hope for the September 11th Attacks
Friday – September 11th, 2009
Fr. Jim Chern
Something we need to remember today as we struggle with the painful remembrance of the terror attacks of September 11th, is that the goal of Evil’s is to turn us away from God – Evil wishes to change us and make our perspectives, our responses, our relationships far from being Loving.
In the days and weeks after September 11 2001 – people had various and different responses. For me, one of the hardest aspects was participating in two funeral masses for two cousins who worked together at EuroBankers. Brett Bailey and Bobby Coll, were 28 and 35 years old. Brett was engaged to be married in the summer of 2002 and Bobby had been married to Brett’s sister Jennifer for 6 years with two children, one who I think we’re 4 and 1 years old. To say it was heartbreaking is almost pathetic in description.
In those days, the notion of forgiveness became as foreign as this new reality, new world we seemed to be entering in. It’s amazing last night watching different specials on today – this morning watching the pictures, remembering the moment by moment events – reliving some of that history – forgiveness is still something that’s still difficult. As human beings, we find it easy to talk about forgiveness in a general way – like an ideal that we aspire to, a goal we wish to achieve. But when it’s personal, it’s a different story altogether.
So for us here today we are once again uncomfortably confronted by the question Could we forgive those responsible for September 11th?
Even I, who didn’t lose someone I love that day – who didn’t work down at the World Trade Center site in the midst of that horror – I struggle with that. I’m embarrassed to share that – that my faith isn’t stronger – that I can’t say, even eight years later that I truly forgive those who did those horrible things.
But then I recognized part of the problem that I have, and I think many people have with forgiveness is that we think it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. That either you forgive someone totally and completely right at this second or you don’t.
Maybe forgiveness is something best achieved gradually, sincerely. And maybe that starts by our recognizing our own need to forgive and being open to or having the desire to one day achieve that.
A year after the 9/11 attacks, Lisa Beamer, the widow of Todd Beamer whose story of bravery on the United Airlines Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania is summed up in the words “Let’s Roll” had an interview with Reuters. And what shocked many people was that she said that some day she may be able to forgive the September 11 hijackers responsible for the deaths of her husband, Todd, and the 39 other passengers and crew members who were killed on that plane. She explained it saying: “Forgiveness is a process. It’s not something where all of a sudden you wake up one day and say: ‘OK, I forgive them.’ You need time. You need perspective and growth. It’s too early to say definitively that I have forgiven them.”
The newspaper article made a point of identifying Beamer as an “evangelical Christian” – which struck me as odd at first, but something that I was comfortable with some reflection. Because that’s what we as Christians are called to.
We are called to Forgive as we have been forgiven, we are called to Love as we have been loved. That’s rarely easy, rarely simple and rarely achieved perfectly. But it’s as much for the world around us as it is for each of us.
Whether any of those responsible for these atrocious attacks cares whether we struggle with forgiving them and actually achieve that forgiveness or not isn’t so important. What’s important is the change that comes from our giving the forgiveness. As Beamer continues through her own process of being able to forgive, she in a sense is a role model for us as Christians struggling with this question and makes an important point as she said:
“…it’s something that over the course of time I feel confident will be resolved,” and then she added. “I can say I don’t hold a lot of bitterness or anger. Those things would be detrimental to me and my family, and the terrorists have certainly taken enough from us. I’m not going to let them take any more.”