September 11th, 2001. The date conjures up feelings within each of us that are difficult to examine or disentangle from one another. There’s fear, anger, sorrow…and each has its place in our memory of that day’s attacks. We all remember where we were (Mrs. Paschal’s third grade classroom, learning about semicolons) and how it felt when we were explained the true enormity of the day, the moment when we knew that September 11th would become stamped on our hearts forever.
Those third graders are graduating from college this spring, or have already set about building careers and even families. As shocking as that seems to me, I’m even more nonplussed when I consider that the younger siblings of some of my friends weren’t even born in 2001. The memory of that day is no longer something for our generation to receive from parents or to revisit annually in a moment of silence. It falls to us to keep alive the memory of those who were killed, and to rekindle, whenever it sputters, the true belief that liberty and community are precious, God-given gifts which each of us is called to defend.
Politics are a fact of life, too, and disagreements are part of what makes us human. But on certain truths there can be no misunderstanding, no space between countrymen. Thirteen years ago, calculated savagery and murderous ideology drove evildoers to kill innocents. The barbarism that each of us saw on our televisions that day was real, and we knew it then that evil was real, too. The darkness that seeks to rule our world is not apocryphal, it has weapons and armies and cleanshaven men with boxcutters. It wasn’t the first time we’ve encountered evil, and it wasn’t the last. But for my generation, born into a time of prosperity and cultural drift, those attacks were a first brush with the vastness of real evil and devastation. In all the arguments in years since, it is easy to forget the unity and profound spirtuality that each American felt on that day. We prayed, together and in the quiet retreat of solitude, for healing and compassion, for strength and resolve.
September 11th is not about politics, it is about humanity and our place in eternity. There are others who know this more profoundly than I ever will, those who spoke to loved ones on United 93, those who rushed to save lives, those who with a final prayer tumbled from the heights of the towers. Love flowed like tears that day, love for our families and love for those who we had never known, but had been cut down by Satan. The events of that day were horrific, and the measures we have taken to combat those elements that seek to launch further attacks have been right and just. Justice is part of opposing evil. It is a sword that, properly wielded, can inflict grave injury on the enemy, and it is a sword that must be held at the ready. But we cannot forget love, that thing which evil despises most. That is the message that our generation must now pass down.
In the days after the attacks, many brave Americans enlisted. Each of us seemed to cast about for a weapon, of any kind, to hurl at those who had attacked our nation. Thirteen years later, physical weapons are still necessary to ensure our safety. What of those of us who stay behind while our heroes defend this country? What weapon shall we wield? Paul can take it from here:Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 —John Henry Thompson is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE