Certain historical events exist outside of a specific time and place. These events define and redefine our society and our culture. September 11th, 2001 is remembered as “the day America was attacked on her own soil.” Each time we travel, open a bank account, visit DMV or apply for a passport, we are reminded that we live in a post 9/11 world. The focus on September 11th as a day that changed America is a reflection of the tragedies and their impact upon us. September 12th however should be remembered as the day that defines America.
The attacks of September 11th were the actions of terrorists, who acted in the name of God, desecrating the divine and perverting everything sacred. The response to this attack was one of unity. On September 12, 2001 Americans reached out crossing every cultural line to connect with their neighbors. Faith, race and class were no boundaries to people who simply wanted to be one nation under God. Volunteers flocked to ground zero. Among these brave volunteers were firefighters, police officers, medics and other first responders. People reached out their arms to donate blood and reached into their pockets to donate funds.
The reaction to September 11th illustrates the best aspects of our culture. We are a people who care about each other in a very tangible way. The response to the September 11th attacks reminds me of a story found in the Talmud. Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Joshua were surveying the ruins of the second temple (70CE). Rabbi Joshua begins to cry “the temple where Israel connected with God has been destroyed.” Rabbi Yochanan comforts him: “Acts of loving kindness have more power to heal a broken world than the structure and rituals of the temple.”
We must remember those who died on September 11th, 2001. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims still dealing with the grief of their loss. We pray for those who continue to suffer with illness as a result of the September 11th attacks. With great pride we remember September 12th as a day that allowed us to be “proud Americans.” May we continue to build upon our strengths as a united people; “One nation under God indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.”
With Torah Blessings and Best Wishes for a Shana Tova (Good Year),
Rabbi David Ross Senter
This article is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Father William Potter who served as a relief chaplain at ground zero. Father Potter died of cancer in June 2011. It is theorized that his cancer was a direct result of exposure at ground zero. Father Potter loved every human being regardless of their faith, race or social status. He was the personification of a true Tzadik (righteous individual). May his memory serve as an inspiration and a blessing.