From the Ashes: A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America

[This is taken from a letter written by one of our fellow students to our professor Candace Walworth as a part of her Nonviolence in and Through History course. Thanks to our classmate for offering this piece.]

Reading the collected writings compiled by Beliefnet, From the Ashes: A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America, resurrected the pain and anger I experienced as a New Yorker in two thousand and one. Eight years later these readings only make my heart heavier and sadder. Their voices are strong, angry, fearful, and begging for restraint. If their voices were listened to, they surely were not heeded by the powers during the aftermath of the September eleventh attacks. What those that held positions of power have brought forth is a cesspool of anger, hatred, retaliation and mass murder. We as a nation and as one world are in more danger today that on that terrible morning eight years ago.

I was on the number six subway going to work when the first plane hit, oblivious as to what was occurring above ground. When I arrived at the private home of my employer, he called for me to come upstairs immediately. As I walked in to his bedroom the television was on and I saw an airliner looping around one of the World Trade Towers and smash and explode into it. I sunk down onto his bed in horror. A newscasters voice said that a second plane had hit; I was stunned and asked Alan, my employer, what is he talking about? He filled me in; it had been only a few minutes between the two planes impact. Reality invaded my senses. As we were walking out of his bedroom into his office, I looked over my shoulder and said, “There is the face of anger directed back at us.” I instantly knew my world and our world was forever changed.

We spent the day watching the banks of televisions in Alan’s townhouse. We watched in horror as people began jumping from the upper floors; we watched as the first tower imploded and not long after the second tower followed. We walked outside; Park and Lexington

Avenues were awash with people walking uptown away from the disaster. The subways were not running, only some buses were running and those were filled to the doors. I walked from east thirty sixth street to east one hundred and seventeenth street, literally with tens of thousands of other New Yorkers. And it was quiet except for the sound of sirens. Shock and fear had brought the people of Manhattan to a silent march homeward. Others were trapped in the city; bridges were closed, tunnels were closed, no one could leave or enter the island for several days. The city entered into a period of mass mourning. It lasted for months.

In a statement delivered to every Congressional office and the White House on September twentieth, signed by numerous religious faiths, the document was called “Deny Them Their Victory: Interfaith Statement” in part it said, “We pray that President Bush and members of Congress will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon the appropriate response”. The statement went on to say, “…we can deny them their victory by refusing to submit to a world created in their image”. The chorus of voices asking, begging for restraint and heartfelt introspection seem to have been shut out or dismissed. As Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote, “…America must open its heart and mind to the pain and grief of those in the Arab and Muslim worlds who feel excluded, denied, unheard, disempowered, defeated”. He further points out “…we must open the ears of our hearts to ask: Have we ourselves had a hand in creating the pain?” Michael Wolfe states, “I am also afraid that in the days ahead, cooler heads will not prevail.” Indeed.

In this collection of writings it is only Starhawk that points out the cycle of cause and effect by stating the United States actions in supporting Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. She writes, “The CIA trained bin Laden and funded his group from 1979 to 1989. We supported the Taliban and helped put them into power….” We, we, we, it is this little word that has brought incalculable suffering and denial on the part of so many Americans choosing to stay ignorant of our government’s part of planting and nurturing the seeds of terrorism. How much longer will we, as a nation, choose blindness over seeing and accepting the actions of our elected officials? Starhawk further points out the uncomfortable truth of America’s supplying of military weaponry to the state of Israel, “When the Israelis assassinate Palestinian political leaders with U.S. made rockets fired from U.S. funded helicopters…are we not supporting terror”?

Many of the above quotes I have included in this paper echo the sentiments I held eight years ago and still hold today. They resonate in my gut and in my heart. I have blood on my hands I cannot deny it nor can I wash it away. Just as I, one woman who went to Vietnam to make relationship with a country and say, “I am sorry for what my government did to you and your country,” perhaps one day I will be able to say I am sorry again. I can only hope I will live long enough to do so in a constructive and meaningful way. I do believe in the power within each one of us: we are one. The love, power, and commitment of “one” can be contagious.

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