By Lilly Freemyer '18
A Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian all walk into the National Cathedral. Now this may seem like the beginning of a horrific joke, but it was the 11:15 am service at the National Cathedral on the fifteenth anniversary of September 11th 2001.
The service was prefaced as “an interfaith service of prayer and remembrance”. The service began with a call to prayer delivered by a Muslim, and then later a Jew and a Christian. As the service continued, readings from the scriptures of all major faith traditions were read allowed by members of the respective religions. The preacher that morning was Dr. Shaun Casey, the United States Special Representative for Religion and Global Affairs. This position was developed by Secretary of State John Kerry in an effort to fully understand the religious dynamic of the rest of the world.
The events of September 11th, 2001 were shattering and awakening for this country. In the course of fifteen years that have passed since that Tuesday, the nature of our national security has changed immensely. Also over the course of fifteen years we have attempted to move away from religious bias and towards a nation that embraces religious diversity. However, the remembrance of the events that occurred that day and the heroes that risked their lives have been lost in translation. Americanism was lost during the memorial service on the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and Americanism will continue to be lost through generations if September 11th, 2001 is not remembered for those who lost their lives and those who risked their lives to save others.
The true heroes of 9/11 are the men and women that risked their lives by entering the burning buildings in order to save the innocent people trapped within the collapsing structures. A noticeable detail during the service were the armed policemen standing at every entrance to the church. They are there to protect the congregation from any possible danger. Police officers on 9/11 played a key role in saving the most lives possible. In New York alone the New York Police Department lost 23 officers and the New York Fire Department lost 343 firefighters. During the service there was not a mention or prayer given in the name of these public officers. This group of courageous men and women are the ones that need to be honored.
The passengers on board flight 93 committed true acts of heroism on that Tuesday morning. After receiving the news of the Twin Towers in New York City, passengers along with the flight attendants made the decision together to storm the cockpit of the plane in an attempt to derail the path of the hijackers to the US Capitol, later crashing the aircraft in a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania. Vice President Cheney, upon hearing about the courageous act of these passengers, stated, “I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane." Vice President Cheney was correct. If it were not for the passengers on Flight 93 the US Capitol, the home of our legislative branch, would have been destroyed. Had the Capitol been attacked our country would have become a weak and easy target for further attacks on innocent Americans. These passengers also need to be admired for their heroism and the pride they shared for their country.
The importance of 9/11 has been lost in translation over the past fifteen years because Americans are to easily distracted. On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero there was a gathering of people to remember those who died during the events of 9/11. Upon the arrival of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the 2016 presidential candidates, the focus of the crowd was immediately lost from the memorial service, and transferred to the public figures that had just arrived. The presence of public figures should not be of any importance on a day like 9/11. The primary focus should be on those who lost their lives and the heroes that saved too many to count.
Can you name the exact date and the details of the event at Pearl Harbor? Or have you read any personal stories from that day? Majority of the population today cannot unless they read the information in a textbook. According to a quiz conducted by MSNBC, less then 50% of the quiz takers could answer general fact questions about Pearl Harbor correctly. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 has become a lost date in our nation’s history and 9/11 should not become of the same nature. Before the attacks on 9/11, December 7th was a day of remembrance and prayer for those who died defending our country on that day. Just because an extreme Islamic group attacked this country 60 years later does not mean the acts of the Japanese must be forgotten. The rising ninth grade class in the US right now is the first class to not have lived the tragic events of 9/11. The primary exposure that this generation has, and generations that come after have should have, should not be a textbook or history lesson, but rather on September 11th every year in memorials and services that commemorate the Americanism of 9/11.
Others may find that the central focus of 9/11 should not be the lives lost but rather the greater picture. After the events that day there was a substantial religious intolerance built up in this country, specifically against Muslims. Stereotypes were formed and members of the Islam faith were seen as enemies. According to US News the number of hate crimes against Muslims in the US was close to 500 in 2001 and 2002. In the years following the number of hate crimes has remained steady around 150 per year. In order for the world to evolve, the bigger picture needs to be prominent. Those who argue against the Americanism would say that the “interfaithness” of the cathedral service was very appropriate for commemorating 9/11.
The “interfaithness” of the service was not inappropriate, but rather, could have been added to emphasize patriotism and nationalism for this country. The bigger picture of 9/11 is still very important, but by losing the Americanism the event begins to become impersonal and the 3,000 lives that were lost on this day are forgotten.
Americanism should not only come alive on a day like 9/11, but throughout the American life. It is an obvious characteristic on July Fourth when smiling children walk down the street during a parade waving American flags or across the dark sky bright bursts of colors pop with a loud boom.
Americanism: theology that one takes pride and is honored to be an American Americanism can be upheld while continuing to integrate members of different faiths, genders, and cultures.