In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years since two hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center and killed nearly 3,000 people. It was one of those life-changing moments burned into memories. We know where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news. On that same day, a third airliner crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and another crash landed in Shaksville, Pennsylvania when heroic passengers brought the plane down rather than let it hit its target. That day fundamentally transformed America. Our sense of safety was shaken at its foundation. We had been attacked on home soil.
What did we learn on September 11, 2001?
When the iconic twin towers crumbled and the New York City skyline changed in an instant, the nation rallied and came together. We were united against the undefined evil that dared to attack us. A wave of patriotism washed across the country and many people returned to churches and other places of worship looking for answers. Tragedy has a way of doing that. Church attendance skyrocketed, but the trend did not last and people returned to their pre-911 ways. George Barna said:
“Churches succeeded at putting on a friendly face but failed at motivating the vast majority of spiritual explorers to connect with Christ in a more intimate or intense manner.”
If there is one thing we learned from this, it is that external circumstances can change our behavior for a time, but true faith changes our heart and it changes our actions from the inside out.
What happened to the unity?
On the day the towers fell and in the weeks following, people across the country united. We were proud to be Americans, but it didn’t take long for that unity to dissipate, just like the church attendance. The 2012 election process shows we are a county divided down the middle on many issues. What happened to the unity that gave birth on that tragic day? It has faded as people return to their everyday lives and time creates a chasm that distances society from the reality of what happened.
World Trade Center cross
When a cross-shaped steel beam was found in the rubble of ground zero, it became a famous Ground Zero symbol that brought hope to many. As we mark the 11th anniversary of the 911 attacks, the planned presentation of the World Trade Center cross is being challenged by an atheist group. Their argument is that the steel beam promotes religion. The organization’s legal director, Edwin Kagin, argued it is “a violation of both federal and New York law in that public funds will be used to establish the Christian religion on public land.” The American Atheists’ president, David Silverman, also said the display is “a clear instance of a violation of the separation of church and state in its extreme.”
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum
This brings us to another issue. Is the National September 11 Memorial and Museum a government entity, or is it a private non-profit organization. Another issue according to Peter Breen, legal counsel for Thomas More Society, is that “a museum cannot be prohibited from displaying a historical item merely because the item has religious significance or is viewed with religious significance by others.”
The debate and legal wrangling over the presence of the World Trade Center cross is ongoing as we mark another year since the fatal terrorist attacks. Not only that, but a dispute over museum costs between Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg continues to drag on and the museum doors will remain closed this September 11. Have we lost our focus? If the victims of 911 could talk to us today, what do you think they’d have to say about all this?