Do you remember the day of September 10, 2001?   I recall that day in utterly clear focus, as though it was a lead-up to the traumatic events about to unfold the next day.  I was at home on the morning of 9/11 when the world was shattered. We all remember that terrible morning of 9/11.  But can we also recall, in our minds and our hearts, what it was like for us before that day?

It’s cliché to say that everything changed on 9/11, but the day before, even the moment before the first plane hit, we didn’t realize that we were in suspended animation before the fall. We fell from our sense of certainty, possibility, comfort and safety.  Everything we had worried about, stressed over, worked on, planned for, even dreamed of, was suddenly recast.  Many things that mattered a lot suddenly didn’t matter any more. Our priorities were shifted, our emotional realities recalibrated.

We are still living in that shadow. I had been in Israel in August 2001, in the throes of the second intifada, and just after the infamous bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in downtown  Jerusalem.  It sadly had become common for  Israelis to navigate their everyday lives with fear as a constant presence in the back of everyone’s minds. With heavy security guarding public places, it was understood that this was necessary, but emotionally, this situation takes its toll over time. So when, after 9/11, NY Penn station started to feel like Jerusalem, with a strong military presence,  I recognized this reality and knew about the stress it generated.

We became jumpier, more ready to assume something dreadful had happened with any loud booming noise, any accident that caused damage to public places. We went about our lives in accustomed ways, but got testy with each other from time to time as a kind of collective post traumatic stress had gripped our communities and towns and even our country.

In the ensuing years, three wars later, our nation has managed fear by attacking perceived enemies. So many lives have been lost or damaged or traumatized in the process. Yet we still fear the next terrorist around the corner.

We have demonized the “other,” Muslims in particular, and have devolved into a society of blame, criticism and “us” against “them” politics that disregards the common good. Painfully, it’s all about fear — fear of loss, fear of change, fear of hurt, and fear of life itself.

Our economic woes are not disconnected from this either. We salved our fears by spending beyond our means, often with our very homes on the line. And when the market tanked in 2008, we had to face new fears for our economic futures. Will there be money for retirement, for staying in our homes? Will there be jobs for us and for our children? These are frightening questions and challenges.

In these difficult 10 years we have still pursued life. We have brought babies into the world, celebrated weddings, b’nai mitzvah, graduations, and other joys families and friends share. We have enjoyed holidays and community celebrations that have shaped our lives.

In many recent conversations I have been hearing a lot of fear — fear about our futures, personally and collectively.  Each of these encounters leaves me yearning for Rosh Hashanah, for a time for reflection, renewal, and reorienting our lives. We have the great gift of a spiritual tradition that helps us to focus on the blessings of our lives and the blessing of life itself. Our ancestor Jacob/Yisrael was plagued by his fears in his journeys, yet he dreamed of angels, awakening to exclaim “How awesome is this place!” He crossed the threshold from fear to faith. We can too.

This September 11 we will mourn the 10 year anniversary of that terrible day and honor the memory of those we lost that day. Now, ten  years later, we seek to understand our lives in its wake. 9/11 occurs during the final Jewish month of Elul, as we prepare for the teshuvah/turning of Rosh Hashanah. In honor of all those who lost their lives to the violence of 9/11 and the years since then, we have an opportunity to affirm life with gratitude and hope. It is from this place of hope that we can find healing from fear, and faith in our future that will direct who we are and who we shall become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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