Like most Americans on that dreadful day, I watched with horror on September 11, 2001 and felt the very foundations of my day-to-day reality rocked in the days, weeks, months, even years that followed.
I was quite a different person back then, a person who stressed about all the little things in life, not to mention the big things. And this was a VERY big thing to me at the time.
We were living in a semi-rural area of Kansas in those days, and fear was running rampant, with no way of knowing at the time what might happen next. I recall well in the days that followed the sound of fighter jets overhead, the only planes flying at all, no doubt heading to and from nearby bases. And I must have watched the twin towers fall almost 50 times, addicted news junkie I was at the time.
When the "shock and awe" of war quickly followed, it seemed unavoidable. Like other mostly patriotic Americans, one who had actually been persuaded into voting for George W. Bush not long before this happened, I accepted the inevitability of war, though I do recall feeling uneasy about it at the time. I can still remember the palpable fear and uncertainty of those days. I was so very paranoid I was almost afraid to open the mail in the Antrax scares that followed. Yes, I was a much different person back then, a person ruled by fear. But fear was the rule of the day. Fear, righteous anger and revenge.
And the fear did not really let up throughout the year that followed. It was during September 2002, when anniversary fervor was reaching a fever pitch, that I had to confront a personal crisis, a thankfully brief, yet intense health scare that ultimately resulted in my own spiritual awakening. No doubt the crisis was made even more intense by the year following September 11, but in a way I felt like the entire nation was facing what seemed like a continual prospect of cancer, not just me. We had all been given the bad news a year ago, changing us forever.
I find it interesting that only in this very moment did I ever make the connection between the fear surrounding my health scare and September 11. For it was this time in my life that indeed led to a very dramatic spiritual awakening about 8 months later, an awakening that finally freed my life and my writing voice.
As with many personal awakenings, mine was the result of intense turmoil facing my own mortality, the turmoil of a person with no trusted spiritual anchor to rely upon, so great were my doubts about the evangelical beliefs instilled in childhood. I felt like I was standing at the very brink of hell. My confrontation with mortality was not just related to the state of my health, but the fear-based state of the entire nation.
In retrospect, I now realize the tremendous gifts fear gave to me. It was fear that led to my heartfelt prayer to the Creator of the Universe, tearfully begging to be shown "the way", whatever it might be.
And the way was indeed shown, though it took years for me to begin to understand, a journey of progressive understanding that continues on this September 11 too, nine years later.
The way had to do with unconditional Love. The way had to do with unconditional Forgiveness. The way had to do with lasting Peace.
I have not forgotten what happened on September 11, 2001. I have not forgotten on a personal, national or global level. I have not forgotten the many people who died that day. I have not forgotten the many people who died in the days and years that followed, on all sides of the resulting wars, including many innocent children and civilians, in addition to soldiers. But there is a difference between forgetting and letting go.
I am finally finding a way of letting go the fear of those days. And it's been quite some time since I have felt any need for vengeance. Instead I have discovered understanding. Instead I am really beginning to see what true faith, forgiveness and unconditional Love actually ask of all of us.
When you begin to look through eyes of understanding, you realize that the entire event on September 11 (even if you believe in alternative theories on the subject) resulted from centuries of fear and vengeance, something that drove a few misguided people to commit an act they felt was justified by their own convictions.
We can question those convictions of course, but can we even dare to try to understand what might have made them feel this way? Can we even dare to end the silence of tolerance (which need not be silent at all)? Just as we expect the tolerant in other countries to take the lead in educating those in their midst, can we dare to take on the responsibility of educating and enlightening those in our own country plagued by eerily similar fears?
Wars breed more wars. Any student of history can see that this is true. Fear breeds more fear. Vengeance breeds more vengeance. Blame breeds more blame. Anger breeds more anger. Death breeds more death. This is true on both sides of any conflict. And sometimes the cascading domino effects of war go on for centuries. This is what happens when we choose not to forget, when we choose not to let go, when we choose not to understand, when we choose not to forgive, when we choose not to Love.
We have a choice. We can indeed choose to Love. We can indeed choose to Trust. We can indeed choose to Understand. We can indeed choose to Forgive. We can indeed choose to place our Faith in the Love that binds us all together on this Earth.
That is where I place my Faith tonight. I have released the angst of September 11, and I no longer believe reacting in fear has anything to do with Faith or Love. I have not watched a single news report today. I honor those who died, just as I honor those who died on every horrendous day, days that continue in some parts of the world, impacting people of many nations, not just ours.
I'm going to dinner in a while. I choose to visit a small family-owned restaurant run by a Moslem married to a Christian (not sure if she converted, either way is fine with me). I happen to know that these people have personally felt an impact from the fear and unreasonable bias that still have a strangle-hold on some who claim to be all about forgiveness, but are actually more interested in judgment, vengeance and a a skewed nationalistic furor instead (something that has led to more wars and death than can be fathomed). I look forward to a nice meal of spicy lamb tajine, a favorite of mine.
I invite you all to dine with us at the table of Universal brotherhood, sisterhood and Unconditional Love.
Understanding breeds more Understanding. Tolerance breeds more Tolerance. Forgiveness breeds more Forgiveness. Love breeds more Love. Joy breeds more Joy. Peace breeds more Peace. Faith breeds more Faith.
I have unwaivering Faith that true Peace on Earth will soon be in our midst.
Susan Larison Danz (aka BridgeBuilder)