A Prayer on September 11th

I sat down to write this morning before work, and this is what happened.


The date stops me. I planned on writing about something else.

Someone made up a story about who the enemy was and why bad things happen to us, and we directed all our fear into rage and vindictiveness.

“Tears are bullets when they harden,” a line from a Stanley Kunitz poem, turns out to be true (poets always knew).

We have committed the terrible crime of dehumanization. In our own hearts and minds, we have replaced the faces of our neighbors with the cartoonish ¬†masks of enemies. We project our worst fears on them because it’s easier to hate an imaginary enemy than to face ourselves. And we imagine enemies everywhere. And where we imagine them they become real, if only to us, the terrified and deluded.

Wake up.

Let’s pray for our own souls.

Lord save me from my own delusion. Teach me to sit my ego down and look it in the eye. Let me see my neighbor’s true face. I will be brave, and I will act with love. Let us heal this wound.


When I was a child, they told us in Catholic school that the word “amen” meant, “I don’t understand, but I believe.”

I don’t understand how we will heal this wound, but I believe that we can and we must. There are 16-year-old children now who were born after 9/11. They have only known a world in which we are at war and are steeped in a culture that believes enemies are everywhere. How do we teach them not to live in fear? I don’t know, but I still believe in trying.


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flying over it

Today is September 11th. I have never quite known how to respond to this day. Yesterday, a man I don’t like very much came up to me and said, “Do you know where you were on September 11th?” I did not want to have that conversation, so I just told him, “I was at home.” The truth is, when I found out what happened, I was in the bathroom. I had just woken up, and I was groggy, sitting on the toilet, staring at the floor, that kind of thing. The phone rang, and I jumped up to get it. It was awkward.

The phone call was my then-boyfriend telling me to call my brother and sister, who lived in Brooklyn at the time, to be sure they were OK. They were, of course.

I went to school that morning because my 9 a.m. philosophy prof was the attendance-taking type. In class, a few people were a little freaked out, but we still didn’t understand the scale of the disaster. We still felt like maybe it was just an accident. We could not begin to imagine everything that would result from that day.

In the afternoon, just about everyone I knew was gathered at the local coffee shop just staring, dumbfounded, at the TVs that were usually on the sports chanels but that day, would not be changed from CNN.

There was a sense of confusion more than anything else. In other places, especially in New York, there must have been a feeling of panic, impending disaster, and even desperation. But in a smallish, not-so-interesting town in Southwest Louisiana, I felt so far removed and detached, like someone had been attacked, but it wasn’t me.


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