I wrote the letter below just a week after 9/11.  I was living in Atlanta far from the family I so longed to be near.  Looking back and reading over it, I can still feel the seismic shift that had taken place.  The all too real feeling of before and after.  The inevitability of war.  The sad realization that the cycle of violence and retribution that other countries had been engaged in for so long had come home.  The subtle undercurrent of fear that we all still carry with us today, was still so tangible then.

In the years following this I would find a faith that would change me, I would marry and have children, and I would move back home.  My politics and my beliefs would go through their own seismic shifts.  Over time evil would creep into our country through this tragedy…it would begin separating and dividing.  It is hard to believe, looking back at the solidarity that overtook us all in that moment, that the result would be a world where either/or would rule.  You are either for me, or you are against me.  You are either our enemy, or our friend.  You are either stupid, or you believe what I believe.  The devil’s name is either/or.  This I believe.

Today I am still a proud American, although my pride rests in different categories than it did back then.  I am, and will always be, thankful to our service men and women, our veterans, our police and firemen.  No greater love.

Yet I wish for a world where we did not need war. I’ve gotten no closer to imagining how that happens – save the day when the lion finally shall lie down next to the lamb.  But I do try to bring that day closer.  I try to hold my heart open, and keep my mind open to seeing different perspectives.  I try to keep either/or at bay.

Patriotism with humility is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is in our nature to find common ground to bond on.  I just long for a day when we find a common bond that reaches across all the arbitrary boundaries and differences.  Is that what is meant by the lion and the lamb vision?  Is that day when we realize our common bond is the Creator – when all eyes are open to the beauty of that truth?  The lion no longer fights the lamb because he sees through the eyes of the Creator and feels that bottomless well of love?  I think it may be.

I will honor the fallen today by remembering.  I will hold the grieving families close to God.  I will pray for the nervous travelers.  I will plea for the ones who celebrate this day.  I will pray for the brave men and women who continue to defend us from hate and terror.  I will pray for the lion, and the lamb.  We are called to pray for both.

Fourteen years has not assuaged the fear, it has not resolved the conflict, and it has not found peace.  But I have changed over those years, I am grateful for those years.   I remain a proud American.  I have become a humble follower of a Great Love.  I want that Great Love to lead me and inform my choices over all else.  That Great Love has softened my fear, given me vision in conflict, and brought profound peace.  That is my prayer for this broken world.

Dear America:

With much regret I write that Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was the first time I realized what it truly meant to be an American citizen.  If questioned I would have claimed to appreciate living in the United States of America.  If asked I would have stated how much better off we are than so many.  If asked I would have told you I was proud of my country – but trust me, I had no idea, not until last Tuesday.

As the events of that day unfolded I was no longer a unique person living an independent life – I was an American through and through.  Those were my people being hurt, it was my country being threatened, and I was unique no more.  

How often have we sat in front of our televisions, watched tragedies unfold half way across the world and feel so blessed that it wasn’t our family, it wasn’t us….  

But this time it was us – everyone felt it, no one was exempt.  I may not personally know one single person in the World Trade Center – but I lost brothers and I lost sisters – I lost countrymen.  Countrymen I wasn’t even cognizant I had until they were taken from me so violently.  I ache for our loss.

I weep for the victims of this horrible disaster. I weep for the heroes of flight 93 who cannot be praised because they gave their life to save others.  I weep for the untold thousands of families who have lost sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, and friends.  I weep for the workers who are willing to face the disaster each day and help our country dig out from this tragedy.  I weep for my own ignorance. I weep for the loss of my blissful naiveté.

But there will come a day very soon when tears will be set aside and we as a nation will be called upon to support a war.  

A generation raised with no real known enemies will be called upon to fight yet another undefined enemy.  We have no country on which to wage our collective anger, no certain nation to claim as our enemy.  But we have anger, we want retribution, we need to strike back at someone.

I want to be brave, but without any knowledge of what is to come I find I my resolve and bravery are peppered with fear.  I fear the future and what these events have set in motion.  I fear the level of anger I feel brewing inside others and myself.  I fear the loss of more brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers.  

I fear and weep for we have lost something we never took the time to fully appreciate.

Our parents know war.  Our grandparents know war.  Only they can fully understand the magnitude of what is to come.  Only they know the true price extracted.  The $40 billion dollars in funding the government has set aside is not the cost of war – it doesn’t come close.

If you have never been threatened, it is difficult to find appreciation for your peace.  

If you have never been challenged it is difficult to comprehend what it takes to meet a challenge. 

If you have never been called upon to pay the price of freedom you cannot fathom the cost.

Thank you to every single veteran in this country and the families of every fallen soldier – thank you for giving me the life I have had these past 30 years.  I love and appreciate each and every one of you.  You are heroes.  Thank you and I’m sorry, I simply didn’t know…

Thank you to every volunteer in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania helping with the rescue efforts.  I cannot imagine the horrors you have faced, I can’t imagine the time it will take for you to recover from all you have seen.  But we thank you and we love you.  You are our heroes as well and I am proud to have you as my countrymen.  

Thank you to every citizen of this nation who has acted with courage and conviction in this past week.  We have risen from this tragedy and given whatever we have to give.  We must stay united – we must remain focused on our efforts.  

Thank you to everyone who returned to work on Wednesday – I know it was difficult, it still is.  It seems as if we should all stop doing what we normally do.  It seems wrong to continue to worry about such trivial matters.  But thank you for doing so; our efforts to continue are helping this country as well.  

Whether you are a CEO, a gas station attendant, a manager, a gardener – no matter what you do, the fact that you are doing it is a sign of the resolve and willingness of our country to not be shut down and destroyed.  Take pride in continuing on – it is a sign of solidarity and strength.

We have been threatened – it is our duty to restore the peace.

We have been challenged – it is time to unite and stand strong in the face of adversity.

We have been called upon to pay for our freedom – the cost will be great, but the future of this country depends upon our willingness to pay it.

May God Bless our Country and Guide our Future,

A Proud American


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