September 10, 2006
by Tom Parker, Liz Steele, Karl Weston, Patti Henry, Woody Forrieter
Call to Worship:
In this time we turn our thoughts to how we can
touch and be touched
love and be loved,
forgive and be forgiven,
heal and be healed,
so that the goodness of our lives is a shared blessing.
We kindle our chalice this day
in remembrance of all who have given their lives for freedom,
for larger life, for justice.
We light, on the altar of our hearts,
a flame of memory and hope
to hearten our struggle and guide
our weary steps in the paths of peace.
Pastoral Prayer, One Year Later
from the Rev. William G. Sinkford
President, Unitarian Universalist Association
Please enter the space of silence and honesty, which is known by many names.
Gracious spirit of creation, dear God. A new church year begins. Life goes on. Babies are born and we dedicate ourselves to them. People die and we memorialize their lives, laughing and crying as we grieve our loss. Marriages and partnerships are formed and blessed. Triumphs and tragedies enter our sanctuaries with us as we gather. Life goes on. And our ministry together tries to hold it all: the joys and the sorrows, the pleasure and the pain, the fullness and the emptiness. All enter here with us. Our coming together bears witness to the power of love, and the possibility of community. For what should we pray?
Twelve months ago, our illusions of security, our sense of safety were shattered. How many times have we heard and said: “Since September 11th” as if by saying those words, we could somehow control the reality of grief, loss, anger and fear; the reality that there are those in our increasingly divided world who see us differently from the way we see ourselves. We say those words- “since September 11th”- as if we could gain dominion over their meaning. Yet as we have grieved and feared, raged and anguished through this last year, life has gone on. For what should we pray, then, one year later?
Should we pray for peace?
Peace in our lives and peace in our world? Should we pray for an end to grief, freedom from fear, an end to violence? But is it not our own hands that must make it so? Yes; despite our failures to achieve peace in our own hearts, still we pray for peace. We pray for an end to grief for those who lost loved ones on September 11th and since September 11th, for those working in rescue and recovery efforts and for those members of our nation's armed services who stand in harm's way. And we pray for those, no less bereft, who have endured losses unrelated to September 11th that have been overshadowed by that communal tragedy. Should we pray for safety? A sense of security, confidence, trust that the universe welcomes our presence and offers a home for our spirit? But at whose expense are we willing to seek safety for ourselves? Yes, we pray for safety, but we also pray for those profiled, jailed and deported since September 11th, and ask forgiveness from those whose safety has been sacrificed in our attempt to guarantee our own Should we pray for wholeness? A world in which Muslim and Jew can live together, a world in which gay and straight, men and women, Black and white and brown and red and yellow encounter one another not in fear but in thanks? But can we ourselves-do we-live with such integrity?
Yes, we pray for wholeness, in our world and in our own lives. We pray for all these things. And, gracious spirit, we pray for ourselves. It is so hard to trust. Everywhere we look, reality contradicts our yearning to hope. It seems that we must walk alone, even through the valley of the shadow of death. We pray for the willingness to walk with one another, for we know we will need to walk together if we are ever to make justice and peace real. For there are no hands on earth but ours. And our hands seem so few and our abilities so small in the face of such great need for healing. There are no hands on earth but ours. So we pray for the strength to try. We know how real the brokenness of this world is, but we will not give brokenness the last word. So we pray for an end to grief, for peace, and safety. We pray for our nation. And we pray for ourselves, that we might feel the spirit of life and the stirrings of compassion. Help us resist both fear and complacency. Help us give life the shape of justice. Help us know that we can collude with love. Help us live as if wholeness can happen, and by our living, help us to make it so. Amen.
Speaker 1: Tom Parker
Speaker 2: Liz Steele
Speaker 3: Karl Weston
Speaker 4: Patti Henry
Speaker 5: Woody Forrieter
Speaker 1 -- Sept. 11 7:59 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 11, carrying 92 people leaves Boston's Logan International Airport for Los Angeles.
Speaker 2 -- 8:01 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 93, carrying 45 people leaves Newark International Airport for San Francisco.
Speaker 3 -- 8:10 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 77, carrying 64 people departs Washington's Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles.
Speaker 4 -- 8:14 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 175, carrying 65 people leaves Boston for Los Angeles.
Speaker 5 -- 8:45 a.m.: American Flight 11 crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Speaker 1 -- 9:03 a.m.: United Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
Speaker 2 -- 9:31 a.m.: In Florida, President Bush calls the crashes "an apparent terrorist attack on our country."
Speaker 3 -- 9:40 a.m.: American Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. Trading on Wall Street called off.
Speaker 4 -- 9:48 a.m.: Capitol and West Wing of White House evacuated.
Speaker 5 -- 9:49 a.m.: Federal Aviation Administration grounds all aircraft. International flights told to land in Canada.
Speaker 1 -- 9:50 a.m.: Two World Trade Center, the south tower, collapses.
Speaker 2 -- 9:58 a.m.: Emergency dispatcher in Pennsylvania receives call from passenger on United Flight 93: "We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!"
Speaker 3 -- 10 a.m.: United Flight 93 crashes 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Speaker 4 -- 10-11:30 a.m.: Government buildings across nation evacuated. United Nations closes. Securities and Exchange Commission closes all U.S. financial markets. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani calls for evacuation of lower Manhattan.
Speaker 5 -- 10:29 a.m.: One World Trade Center, the north tower, collapses.
Speaker 1 -- 11:40 a.m.: Bush arrives at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., after deciding not to return directly to Washington. He later travels to U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
Speaker 2 -- 2:51 p.m.: Navy dispatches missile destroyers and other equipment to New York and Washington.
Speaker 3 -- 5:25 p.m.: Seven World Trade Center collapses.
Speaker 4 -- 7 p.m.: Bush arrives in Washington from Nebraska.
Speaker 5 -- 8:30 p.m.: Bush addresses nation from White House, declaring he will make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them.
After Great Pain by Emily Dickinson
After great pain, a formal feeling comes--
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs--
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?
The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought
A Wooden way
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--
This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--
From the Internet, Author Unknown:
"Where was GOD when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was attacked?" He was very busy!
He was trying to discourage anyone from taking these flights.
Those four flights together held over 1000 passengers and there were only 266 aboard.
He was on 4 commercial flights giving terrified passengers the ability to stay calm. Not one of the family members who were called by a loved one on one of the high-jacked planes said that passengers were screaming in the background. On one of the flights He was giving strength to passengers to "try" to overtake the high-jackers.
He was busy trying to create obstacles for employees at the World Trade Center. After all, only around 20,000 were at the towers when the 1st jet hit. Since the buildings held over 50,000 workers, this was a Miracle in itself. How many of the people who were employed at the World Trade Center told the media that they were late for work or they had traffic delays.
He was holding up "2" 110 story buildings so that 2/3 of the workers "could" get out. I was so amazed that the top of the towers didn't topple when the jets impacted. And when they did fall, they fell inward GOD didn't allow them to topple over, as many more lives would have been lost.
He sent His children, that are best trained for this disaster and had them save the few that were still alive, but unable to help themselves. And then sent many others to help in anyway they were needed.
From “The Onion” Sept. 11 Edition:
God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule
NEW YORK—Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshipped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.
"Look, I don't know, maybe I haven't made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again," said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. "Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don't. And to be honest, I'm really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand."
Worshipped by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike, God said His name has been invoked countless times over the centuries as a reason to kill in what He called "an unending cycle of violence."
"I don't care how holy somebody claims to be," God said. "If a person tells you it's My will that they kill someone, they're wrong. Got it? I don't care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else's, ever again."
The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.
"I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you'd get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important," said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. "I guess I figured I'd left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?"
"But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody's spouting off some nonsense about, 'God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it's God's will,'" God continued. "It's not God's will, all right? News flash: "God's will" equals "Don't murder people."
Worse yet, many of the worst violators claim that their actions are justified by passages in the Bible, Torah, and Qur'an.
"To be honest, there's some contradictory stuff in there, okay?" God said. "So I can see how it could be pretty misleading. I admit it—My bad. I did My best to inspire them, but a lot of imperfect human agents have misinterpreted My message over the millennia.
God praised the overwhelming majority of His Muslim followers as "wonderful, pious people," calling the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks rare exceptions.
"This whole medieval concept of the jihad, or holy war, had all but vanished from the Muslim world in, like, the 10th century, and with good reason," God said. "There's no such thing as a holy war, only unholy ones.
Continued God, "Read the book: 'Allah is kind, Allah is beautiful, Allah is merciful.' It goes on and on that way, page after page. But, no, some assholes have to come along and revive this stupid holy-war crap just to further their own hateful agenda. So now, everybody thinks Muslims are all murderous barbarians. Thanks, Taliban: 1,000 years of pan-Islamic cultural progress down the drain."
Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: "Can't you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism... every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you're supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It's not that hard a concept to grasp."
"Why would you think I'd want anything else? Humans don't need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you've been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!" God said. "The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?"
"I'm talking to all of you, here!" continued God, His voice rising to a shout. "Do you hear Me? I don't want you to kill anybody. I'm against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don't kill each other anymore—ever! I'm serious!"
Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God's shoulders began to shake, and He wept.
In Times of Hatred and War
by Tereza Halliday(*)
After September 11th, many were compelled to predict what kind of world is left for us from now on. The media as well as private conversations are full of comments because the stun and horror go on. Even Fidel Castro spoke about the tragedy by defining it as "a huge mistake, a gigantic injustice, an enormous crime". It is only human to speculate and express opinions about things that frighten and offend.
[However], I chose to stick to Cecília Meireles' verses: "Get rid of the sad vanity of speaking. Think, completely silent". While writing about ordinary aspects of our continual little lives, I silently think of the thousands disappeared, with crushed bones and burned flesh in the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the abused by the hysteria of vengeance, for being or looking like Arabs; the Afghan, Palestine and Israeli victims and all those destroyed by terrorism anywhere we point a finger on the world map. I think of those who loved them and now suffer from the chronic pain of their aching absence. I cannot be proud of belonging to this planet, in spite of Gandhi, the Physicians without Borders and Mother Teresa.
I leave the sickly consequences of September 11th to be commented by political scientists, sociologists, professional philosophers and guessers. I know how to reason critically about the American Empire, its malign policies, its quixotism and arrogance. But it is the kingdom of feelings that dictates my bonds with the United States. There I lived ten of the best years in my life. There I went to graduate school, rode a bike safely, built a solid academic background, planted tulips, shoveled snow, benefited from the high quality of public radio and TV. There I witnessed wretchedness and greatness, the tacky and the sublime. There I was respected as a person regardless of family connections, nationality and income. Oh, yes, in the land of money and abominable conspicuous consumption, I have lived what is priceless.
There my son was born, in a cold sunny afternoon, with colorful Autumn leaves falling all around. There I keep friends who continue to nourish me with their thoughtfulness, generosity and affection. Among them, former professors and graduate school classmates, friends from my adolescent years [in Brazil], an ex-boss, a confidante and even a godmother to my child. Each and everyone of them widens my spirit and reinforces my faith in friendship without vested interests.
I think of these friends - native and naturalized Americans - with empathy and tenderness. After September 11th, they are scared, angry, disheartened. They have lost their innocence and security. I have lost mine a long time ago, as both a Latin American and a Brazilian. They are not perfect but they are among the best specimens of the human species and I am blessed with their presence in my territory of affections. That's why, in times of hatred and war, I declare love and peace to them.
Narrator: On September 11, 2001, people in the towers and people in the planes telephoned their loved ones to impart one final message. Today we remember their last words…
The last words of an unnamed 24-year-old son to his mother, and his mother's response…
Son (Speaker One): Mom, the ceiling's falling down. I'm going to die. I love you.
Mother (Speaker Four): Go and hold someone's hand. Be with someone. I don't want you to die alone.
Narrator: The last words of Lauren Grandcolas, aboard Flight 93, to her husband…
Lauren Grandcolas (Speaker Three): We have been hijacked. They are being kind. I love you.
Narrator: The last words of Melissa Hughes, trapped in the World Trade Center, to her husband…
Melissa Hughes (Speaker Four): Sean, it's me. I just wanted you to know I love you and I'm stuck in this building in New York. A plane hit the building, or a bomb went off. We don't know, but there's a lot of smoke and I just wanted you to know that I love you always.
Narrator: The last words of Mark Bingham, hero aboard Flight 93 to his mother…
Mark Bingham (Speaker Five): I want you to know I love you very much and am calling from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men and they say they have a bomb. I don't know who they are. I love you, I love you, I love you.
Narrator: The last words of countless men and women facing terrifying and violent death . . .
Speaker One: I love you.
Speaker Three: I love you.
Narrator: And in the towers and on the Manhattan streets below, hundreds rushed into peril to save lives and put out the flames. Crushed in a mountain of debris, their last words remain mute. Today we remember them with these words of Walt Whitman:
I am the mash'd fireman with breast-bone broken,
Tumbling walls buried me in their debris,
Heat and smoke I inspired, I heard the yelling shouts of my comrades,
I heard the distant click of their picks and shovels,
They have clear'd the beams away, they tenderly lift me forth.
Today we speak their last words for them . . . I love you.
Speaker Four: I love you.
Speaker Five: I love you.
Narrator: And let the people say:
Congregation: I love you.
Please join hands for our closing words:
In John 15:13, Jesus says "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." On Sept. 11, many men and women did just that. Business men and women sacrificed their own lives to help co-workers out of the buildings. Firefighters lost their lives, trying to rescue people they didn’t even know. And an entire flight of passengers who hadn’t known each other before, banded together, losing their lives, to save others from being attacked.
What greater way is there to honor all those who died September 11 ... than to love.