Did some good come from Sept. 11, 2001?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can you forgive and forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001? When the news became public and flashed across the news, everybody seemed to be stunned. People wondered if some of their loved ones were caught in the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York City.

"My aunt worked there," said one. Others voiced the names of those they knew who might have been involved in the event. Many went to the nearest telephone to call. Lines were overflowing with callers concerned with the well-being of those they knew. I remember well where I was, when the two jet liners crashed into the twin towers.

I was attending a spiritual direction training session in Atchison, Kan., on that traumatic day in 2001. In fact I had gone to great lengths to prepare a prayer service for one of my classes. When my group of spiritual direction peers met for the Liturgy of the Hours in the monastery chapel that morning, it was not necessary to demand silence. Everybody was silent. They were at a loss for words to express their feelings, silent to explain what they were experiencing and silent because of the awe, fear, ambiguity, dread and wonder that was all a part of the monastery atmosphere.

Although I had prepared more than adequately for my presentation that I was to give that day, few attended. I was briefly hurt until I realized the depth of the tragedy that filled the air. The students merely wanted to stay in the chapel and pray.

When I arrived home from the weekend of classes/retreat, I went back to work on Monday morning. As a part of my job as director of religious education at a local Catholic Church, I was asked by one of the priest to help with some ideas for a prayer vigil.

I heard words of anger, fear and accusation against certain religious sects. Numerous people were seeking a reason for what had happened. A person, a religion, a reason had to be found to ease tears, hurt and something to blame.

As the event in New York City became history, people began to heal. Awesome deeds were performed to help those involved in Sept. 11. Enemies became friends, and friends became even closer friends.

Can you forgive an intentional deed such as the planes crashing into the two buildings killing thousands of people? Jesus says to "Forgive seventy times seven." He gave no criteria or actual number amount of times to forgive. Nor did he mention the severity of the deed. He merely said "seventy times seven." Although we aren't asked to become friends, necessarily, with those who harm us, we are asked to forgive them. Those who commit harm usually suffer more than the ones to whom the deed is being directed toward. Although one wonders if everybody has a conscience, you can only trust that God will take care of the pain.

People are human with human emotions. The Catholic catechism says "It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession (2843). May we only say "Holy Spirit, give me such a heart!"

Ellen Shuck is a regular religion columnist for the Southeast Missourian. She holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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