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Tenth Anniversary

American Flag

A crowd was assembled around St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway. Behind the chapel one block west, the tenth anniversary ceremony to honor the victims of 9-11 was taking place; its sound system spreading indistinct reverberations through the blocks. Only the 9-11 families and government dignitaries, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, were admitted to ground zero. The rest of the public milled around the perimeter at St. Paul’s to be nearby the epicenter of remembrance.

An enormous protest sign dominated across the street from the chapel. The terse block letters read: “THE BUSH REGIME ENGINEERED 9-11.” The “Truthers” were to be expected. Conspiracy dies hard. Years of professional inquiry shows gaps in the intelligence flow, but no bombing by means other than planes hijacked by Al Qaeda.

The lovely interior of St. Paul’s Chapel was filled with shrines of memorabilia: photos, letters, notes, pleas for the missing –and soft murmurings of those present. Several intimate rows of chairs began to fill with amblers in. A memorial service began.

A few survivors gave accounts of their experiences in the Chapel on that September day, 2001. They described how a bastion of profound calm, between these walls, had consoled them during a storm of horrific violence just outside the door. They came back to express their gratitude. Several pastors spoke simple words. A woman with powerful presence led harmonic songs that seemed to expand, and open us beyond any one tradition.

As the music cascaded and fell, the service was ending in prayer. A wave of impressions began to inhabit the silence: the families and their losses, a changed America, an altered world, tragic mistakes, beauty and blessings. Here we sat now, in this cozy elegant hall, erected in 1766, walls that welcomed George Washington on his Inauguration Day; survived the New York City Fire of 1777; held steady through September 11th without so much as a broken window. Heart rending and poignant.

Now breaking, was the silence. A rumbling sound emerged from outside of the chapel, taking the shape of voices in unison. It became louder, and louder, growing to a fevered pitch. The angry roar of the protesters took aim at George W. Bush, traveling far enough on the air to disrupt the events at ground zero, a block away. A thunderous boom enveloped our chapel sanctuary, so overwhelming that the foundation seemed to shake.

The interference was undesirable: a crashing incursion of sound, shattering our congregation’s intention to witness and to pause for healing. The raucous expression of the protesters felt ill-timed, and its message off the mark. Notwithstanding the betrayals of public trust in the prelude and aftermath of 9-11, their bluster seemed indulgent .

But then, taking a step back from the collision, the picture began to shift. I began to perceive the larger meaning in the stew conflicting expression: it was all being tested, freely and openly, nonviolently, in the marketplace of consciousness. The unwelcome sound became a tolerable, even beautiful, testament to freedom.


See Multimedia Content for more on the day’s events:


PHOTOS: intimate moments at 9-11 memorial service

  • VIDEO: 9-11 memorial coverage





    Check out this Action Opportunities link for more image of the memorial site:

    Action Opportunities






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    What goes through your mind when you hear conspiracies relating to 9-11? What do you think are the legitimate concerns, as the country goes forward in its response to violent extremists?


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    Filed under Culture  |  Comments: 0 | Posted on Monday, September 12th, 2011

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