Ten years ago this coming week, churches and synagogues were packed to overflowing. It looked like Easter and Christmas on that first Sunday after 9/11. A shattered and searching population turned and returned to the rock from which they were hewn. We wanted answers, we wanted solace, we were scared, we were numb, and we wanted company.
Friends of ours were in Las Vegas for a convention on that fateful September morning. Having heard the horrifying news they wanted to return to Macon, Georgia. Everybody in our nation wanted to go home on that day.
Our government had wisely shut down every airport, forestalling the simplest way for people to return to family and friends. But that didn’t stop people. I’m sure they boarded buses, booked taxis, even hitch-hiked if necessary.
Our friends, finding every car in Las Vegas already rented, tried to buy a car. To their shock they discovered that every car in Las Vegas that could possibly be sold had already been purchased, too. Finally a friend in the automobile business in Macon found them a car for sale in Las Vegas and these four bereft people, so far from home, joined Americans all over the nation in making the long cross-country trek of return.
Save for the most independent person, a time of wrenching national tragedy is not the time to be alone. There is something about a gathered community that offers comfort and security even in the face of the most unspeakable horror. And so Americans returned home.
Ten years later it somehow feels like we are still trying to find our way back home. We have been engulfed in war on two faraway fronts for nine years. A child in the third grade will never have known a day when our nation has not been at war. Over 6,500 of our heroic troops have died in Afghanistan and Iraq during this time and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani citizens have died. The financial burden added to our nation is truly incalculable, a debt we will pay for generations to come and which we can scarce afford in these days of depression. Our nation has made tremendous strides in defeating Al Qaeda but in many ways the nations of Afghanistan and Iraq seem to be almost as unstable as before and Pakistan teeters on the brink of chaos.
It will be interesting to see how our nation, and in particular houses of faith, observe this anniversary. Ten years out these are not times for unrestrained celebration and yet to merely revisit how we felt ten years ago is rather thin gruel. It remains time for the faith community to seek to be those, individually and collectively, who can work for peace and call our nation and world to faithful respect of each other. The way back home is still ahead and the faith community has a role in mapping the journey.
Contact the Rev. Creede Hinshaw at Wesley Monumental United Methodist Church in Savannah at email@example.com.