I will never forget the horrid images of American Airlines Flight 11 hurling into the World Trade Center, followed by United Flight 175 disintegrating the second tower, forever silencing innocent lives, and collapsing one of our staunchest symbols of American ingenuity in its wake.
Watching American Flight 77 strike the Pentagon as United Flight 93’s smashed into a Pennsylvania field, I wondered out loud “How can we move on with our collective soul so mired in shock and inexplicable grief?”
Processing the day’s somber events, I quietly discerned that the answer lay within the question. The horrific attacks served to galvanize the nation. We’d become one in a way that our enemy so clearly perceived us -- the way that we had forgotten to see ourselves.
We took on a singular identity, becoming as “American” and “United” as the airlines that the terror network leveled against the very icons of our nation’s centers of wealth and power. What they failed to recognize was our resolve to right such a heinous wrong, even in the depth of our own distracted despair.
We rose up then in the way that blacks arose in the ‘60s to deny injustice its full bloom. From non-violent protests to Brown vs. the Board of Education to The Civil Rights Acts of 1964, to the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution -- we overcame as one, finding righteous indignation in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The time is always right to do what is right.”
In the intervening years, it seems that we’ve forgotten what “right” looks like. We’ve lost touch with civility and retreated into what we were before September 11, 2001.
Back then we were caught up in a meaningless debate over ”hanging chads” and a protracted Supreme Court battle for the oval office, creating a perfect storm for a contentious new millennium and vitriolic tug-o-war between opposing sides.
We’ve neglected to comprehend that there is more that unites than separates us.
This is the lesson of 9/11 in plain sight.
It is a principle that we ought not to lose sight of. The suicide bombers did not respect our self-serving sectarianism. The 2,753 lost that day were a multicultural mosaic of American life: Jews, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and so many others of God’s wondrous creation.
Since 9/11 we’ve managed to fight over a gaping hole in lower Manhattan, a mosque site too near and whether to burn the Koran.
In ten short years, we find ourselves once again on uncommon ground. We’ve reapplied our self-adhesive labels that dichotomize us. We are ardent red and blue states, majority and minority parties, elephants, donkeys, independents and undecideds.
We’ve stood vehemently for, and armed ourselves to fight, tooth and nail against any partisan bill introduced on the Hill. And like Nero, we fiddled shamelessly over the debt ceiling crisis while ordinary Americans suffered the cumulative effects of an anemic economy, mortgage meltdown and zero job growth.
This national tête-à-tête calls to mind the fable, “The Four Oxen and the Lion.” So long as the oxen roped their tails together, no matter which way the predator approached, it was met by a set of sharp horns. It was only when the oxen retreated in dispute to their mutual corners that the enemy attacked one by one. The moral speaks to the age old axiom: “United we stand, divided we fall.”
In his treatise, “Reason in Common Sense,” George Santayana summarized what we already knew, yet did not observe: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
It then stands to reason that we must now learn the lessons of history, which is this: we cannot defeat the enemy without until we defeat the enemy within.
Let us not continue to self-inflict wounds on our hard earned American esprit de corps by clinging to the very sobriquets that segregate us.
It is my sincere prayer that we never forget what we lost that September morning, and that we always remember what we also gained on that dark and terrible day.
Let us internalize the lessons of 9/11 and restore our nation to unity today!
Bishop T. D. Jakes is a charismatic leader, visionary, provocative thinker, entrepreneur, and best-selling author who serves as the senior pastor of the 30,000-member church, The Potter’s House located in Dallas, Texas. Named “America’s Best Preacher” by Time Magazine, Jakes brings a fresh, bold new perspective to real-world issues. Visit www.tdjakes.org for more information.
More On Faith and 9/11:
Desmond Tutu: Our post-9/11 failures
Tony Blair: Remaking the world after 9/11
Sam Harris: 9/11 demands intellectual honesty
Thomas Monson: Rebuilding our souls
T.D. Jakes: Spirituality after the attack
Feisal Abdul Rauf: Radical Islam on its way out
Donald Wuerl: Peace begins internally
Katharine Jefferts Schori: Live the memorial
Mark Driscoll: Death and the hope of resurrection
Karen Armstrong: Unite through compassion
Deepak Chopra: Divided hearts, divided world
Yasir Qadhi: Americans still don’t know Islam
T.D. Jakes | Sep 8, 2011 10:22 AM