I awoke at 4:24 AM PDT without benefit of alarm. I wanted to share in the 9-11 memorial ceremonies in New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville, Pennsylvania along with the millions of others taking time to remember one of the most challenging days in our history as a nation. I did not know as I began listening to the CBS TV presentation of the ceremonies that I would be writing these words. However, it soon struck me that I was experiencing a deeply personal connection with those whose lives were lost on 9-11 and with their families and friends. I did not personally know any of the people whose lives we were commemorating in these services, but as the coverage ended, I realized I do now know them and care about them as though they were members of my own family.
As the names were being read I realized, as I am sure you did as well, that every ethnic, cultural, religious and national heritage was represented. How many times the words were repeated: “We will never forget you.” The photos accompanying the names listed the span of ages. We are a special people in many ways, probably due to the manner by which our country came into being and the steps we have taken through the years to improve our understanding of each other, our likenesses and differences, and to honor each other for the contributions we make to our society. We honor the living and we respect the lives of those who have gone on before us.
The gentle, reverent touch of the bronzed names of their loved ones and the tracing of those names onto the memorial program gave expression to how we care and how we share our love. Many were shown embracing one another or simply touching an arm or shoulder in a moment of shared knowing. Every form of relationship was represented—mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, partners and lovers and friends. I was reminded that, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.” While the surviving families have experienced an individual loss, they have gained the oneness of spirit with all of us.
We are all travelers on the journey through life. May these words, penned many years ago by my mentor and my friend as he experienced his own personal loss, enfold and comfort us all in that journey.
By James Dillet Freeman
They have put on invisibility.
Dear Lord, we cannot see--
But this we know, although the road ascends
And passes from our sight;
That there will be no night;
That You will take them gently by the hand
And lead them on
Along the road of life that never ends,
And they will find it is not death but dawn.
I do not doubt that You are there as here,
And You will hold them dear.
Our life did not begin with birth,
It is not of the earth;
And this that we call death, it is no more
Than the opening and closing of a door--
And in Your house how many rooms must be
Beyond this one where we rest momently.
Dear Lord, we thank You for the faith that frees,
The love that knows it cannot lose its own;
The love that, looking through the shadows, sees
That You and they and we are ever one.
As Bob Schieffer reflected so clearly at the end of the broadcast, “We saw America at its very best.”