Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was nearby leading a conference as the first plane hit the tower. He remembers saying to himself as the second plane hit and the lights went out, “Let us not be afraid to tell God how afraid we are.” He then joined a few others to guide children (ages 4 and under) in a nursery school out of the buildings and to safety.
After the towers fell, a tiny 18th-century Episcopal church became a relief center where clergy counseled, cooks dished out meals, and medical workers treated stiff muscles and burned feet. More than 5,000 people used their special gifts to transform St. Paul’s into a place of rest and refuge. Musicians, clergy, podiatrists, lawyers, soccer moms, and folks from all walks of life poured coffee, swept floors, took out the trash, and served more than half a million meals.
In the days leading up to the tenth anniversary we have heard and commemorated what our lives were like on that day and what it has been like to live life post-9/11. The theme is clear—while humanity can do horrible things we are also capable of selfless giving, deep compassion for our neighbor, love and care for those who mourn, and the ability to give mercy to all those in need.
This truth is clear in the stories we tell on this tenth anniversary. We are proud too that the Episcopal Church sent people to the 9/11 site to care and offer a vision of God's hand working in the world. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said recently, "People of faith gave sacrificially in the immediate aftermath of the plane crashes. St. Paul's Chapel opened its doors to the emergency responders, and volunteers appeared with food and socks, massaging hands and praying hearts. Volunteers continued to staff the chapel for months afterward, and prayers were offered as human remains were sought and retrieved in the ruins of the towers."
C. S. Lewis wrote, "When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all."
Episcopalians will join the American people this weekend in remembering. But we do this so that the epitaph we write in the ashes of 9/11 is one of hope, kindness, and humility.
We are transformed by the events of ten years ago. But it is our hope that through our transformation we may more widely engage our communities in the work of reconciliation wherein we find a common ground to change the world itself. Where together we may beat our swords into plowshares our spears into fishing hooks. (Isaiah 2.4) This anniversary is a special opportunity in our history where embracing our neighbors and loving them as ourselves can open new doors to understanding, fellowship, cooperation, and peacemaking. We tell and retell our 9/11 story so that we remember. We remember so we can be transformed. We do this in the name of Jesus Christ who came and offered the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors.
Prayer for our Country
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Some Events in the Diocese of Texas
In the Diocese of Texas we will remember the events and the people who cared. St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston will hold a "Service of Prayer and Remembrance" at 6 p.m. on Sept. 11. St. Andrew's Church in Pearland plans to honor and bless first responders in remembrance of all those who lost their lives and their bereaved families.
In Austin, St. David's Episcopal Church has invited the entire community to join them for an "Evensong for Peace" at 5 p.m. on Sept. 11. The service of prayer and remembrance will include prayers "and deeply moving choral and organ anthems—all of which speak to the community's deepest desires for peace and reconciliation among all peoples," according to a diocesan news article.
"It is our desire to call our community together to remember our losses and the individual and corporate pain of the events of Sept. 11, 2001," said the Rev. David Boyd, rector of St. David's. "As people of faith, we seek to hold up hope and pray for peace among all people."
The Diocese of Texas has partnered with Compassionate Houston on a "Compassionate Weekend of Service." Organizations throughout Greater Houston will be hosting activities with a compassionate focus.