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It was a brilliant Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, and, sleepy-eyed, I met my friend at the airport for our flight to Gloucester, Massachusetts, for our annual retreat—Everything as usual, or so I thought.

Only airborne a short while, the intercom clicked on. “This is your Captain speaking—Air Traffic Control is delaying our arrival at Boston. Some difficulties, they’re having. We’ll keep you posted.” I buckled my seat-belt, intuiting that something was very wrong. My friend didn’t agree and our conversation about terrorism continued until interrupted.

It was the Captain again. “There’s been another change. Air Traffic Control directs us to land at the nearest airport. Since we’re closest to Indianapolis, that’s where will land. They’re expecting us, as well as other planes ordered to clear the skies.” Only while deplaning did the Captain inform us of the terrorist bombings in Manhattan.

Slowly, the ghoulish pieces of the nightmare begin to coalesce while listening to the car rental’s radio on the way to Gloucester: a series of suicide planes had crashed into and leveled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center; another crashed into the side of the Pentagon; and still another, intended for the U. S. Capitol or The White House, crashed-landed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thanks to Todd Beamer and other passengers who almost subdued their four hijackers.

Panic, fire, dense smoke, mangled and burnt bodies, shocking injuries, lingering deaths, families decimated, destruction of symbolic edifices, disruption of the economy and much more scarred America’s psyche—an emotional scarring it still bears, despite the media’s sanitized coverage, twenty years later.

Only later did Osama bin Laden, founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization, al-Qaeda, take responsibility for this atrocity, his choice of the date to avenge the September 11, 1683 Christian victory over the Turks at the battle of Vienna.

Prayer and Memorials help, but the scar of 9/11 remains: No one has forgiven anyone—the war continues.

Grief’s heart-language strains to make sense of the irreparably broken, plumbs bottomless depths for slippery words, and grapples with bits and pieces of flotsam cast about by the oceans of the world. Tears flow like spume crashing down mountain crevices, pooling angry streams, and flooding once-fertile banks. I look around. Uselessness seems to be the norm.

Such is my world this afternoon as I write. To soothe my psyche I perused the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Lamentations (586 BCE) and marveled at its poetic utterances lamenting the plight of the Exilic Jews, vanquished under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar: its city of Jerusalem wasted; its Temple destroyed and left desolate by Yahweh. The tone is bleak.

Yet the burden of their sinfulness, the stinging angst in their psyches, was far worse than the devastation and fires and loss of country. Fortunately for us, the ancient poets of the Book of Lamentations had the spiritual rigor to leave us their ultimate response: hope in the face of the impossible.

Would that someone could craft a response to the brokenness of our world. Certainly the pool of suffering deepens and hope seems stuck away in underground abysses. Certainly prayer, in solitude, can help: Let God be God in His world.

Heart-cries fraught with tears for:

first responders in Haiti and Afghanistan,

firefighters in Greece, Turkey, Israel, and America,

victims living with chronic pain and illness,

 military, police, and law enforcement,

patients stung by the virus, despite vaccinations,

  addicts of whatever substance,

the grieving,

the destitute,

the terminally ill,

the dying,

Such are our brothers and sisters of the human family throughout our broken world.

We ask Your protection and care with complete abandon.

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