What do you remember about the 9/11 attacks?

Plan Now to Make Peace on 10th Anniversary of 9/11 attacks

This week, we welcome award-winning filmmaker Helen Whitney to ReadTheSpirit. You can meet Helen in our Wednesday interview about her new multi-media project on Forgiveness. For many years, Whitney has circled the globe to help people understand the important and diverse influences of faith.

TODAY: We are sharing a terrific idea for you and your congregation, class or small group in September. Get a copy of Helen Whitney’s Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, which she produced for the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Next month, millions of Americans will pause and reflect once again. Help your community do this in a constructive and compassionate way.

ALSO TODAY: This is the first day of Ramadan. (Wish a Happy Ramadan to our Muslim neighbors!) We also are publishing …

What do you remember about the 9/11 attacks?

Most Americans have forgotten the intensity of our responses after the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. We have moved on to anxiety over our nation’s financial crisis and entrenched political feuding.
As the Editor of ReadTheSpirit, I recall watching Helen Whitney’s deeply moving documentary in 2002. However, watching the film again for today’s story all these years later—fresh tears well up in one’s eyes. The expressions of spiritual anguish are so honest and so intense in the dozens of interviews Helen conducted on the one-year anniversary of 9/11!

Here are some comments from the Faith and Doubt documentary to spark your own memories:

TELL US ABOUT IT: Email us at [email protected] with your memories and thoughts. AND, we want to know about special programs planned in September to mark the 10-year anniversary. We can help to spread the news nationally.

First from the film, a series of unidentified men and women, voicing thoughts that plagued them after the Twin Towers fell in New York City:
“It was Hell on Earth!”
“Being trapped in those buildings, was there any God with them?”
“How could God be in the horror that I saw?”
“Is religion itself to blame?”
“After the towers fell, there were people just streaming away silently like the living dead. It was like the Day of Judgment—the Apocalypse—was coming true.”

Catholic priest Father George Rutler: “When those towers came down, we were being reminded of our mortality. If the biggest buildings in the biggest city in the center of the universe—and I’m speaking as a New Yorker—could come down, then this world will come down. The buildings being so massive and powerful gave us an illusion that we were that way, too.”

Bernie Heeran, a retired firefighter whose son was trapped in the towers: “I went to church and I kind of negotiated with God and asked Him if He could just give me this one. But I knew from being a fireman that my son couldn’t have been in a worse possible position.”

The Chowdhurys, whose daughter and son in law worked in the Twin Towers: “We were hoping that they might barely survive. I prayed to Allah that, if they survived, let them both survive. … But my daughter and her husband both went to Allah together. … In their one year of marriage, we had never seen our daughter so happy. … No  matter what I do, if I cry, if I scream, I cannot bring them back.”

A widow—whose husband Dave died in the towers—later visits Hawaii for some solace but is shaken by the beauty she sees: “I could not believe that this God I had talked to for 35 years could make this most beautiful place in the world—and turn this loving man into bones. I couldn’t reconcile the difference between those two extremes and that’s when I felt that my faith was so weakened by 9/11 that I felt like God was just not present to me as it had been. I guess all I feel at this point is the profound absence of Dave and of my conversations with God that I used to have that I don’t have anymore. … I just can’t bring myself to speak to God anymore because I feel so abandoned. And I guess deep down inside I know God exists and I have to forgive and move on but I’m not ready to do that yet.”

An Episcopal priest whose faith was shaken to its core: “There is this sense of being alone out there in a world that is a lot crueler than I thought. There is a sense in me and in many others I have spoken with that we are surviving, at least for now. We don’t know what is coming. We are surviving. We are sensitive to the changes around us, but we are just trying to survive. We have hardened ourselves. To be vulnerable is very difficult right now. We’ve been burned literally by religion.”

Rebuilding community, healing memories after:
“We have been burned literally by religion”

CLICK on the book cover to jump to Amazon and order a copy of Helen Whitney’s Forgiveness.OUR RECOMMENDATION: Get a copy of Helen Whitney’s documentary—and her new book Forgiveness: A Time To Love & A Time To Hate. You will meet Helen in our Wednesday interview in which she talks about both 9/11 and Forgiveness. Then, plan an autumn series in your congregation, community or small group. The documentary, which was part of the PBS Frontline series is tied up in licensing issues in summer 2011. You can watch online retailers for copies of the DVD to go on sale again. But, Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero is available via Netflix and through libraries. Request it now so you are ready for autumn.

REMEMBER TO TELL US ABOUT IT: Email us at [email protected] with your memories and thoughts. AND, we want to know about special programs planned in September to mark the 10-year anniversary. We can help to spread the news nationally.

Care to read more about Islam and Ramadan?

Care to read more from Dr. John Esposito? Here is ReadTheSpirit’s most recent interview with him.

Care to read more about Ramadan? We recommend The Beauty of Ramadan.

Please connect with us and help us to reach a wider audience

Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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