What is there to write about in today’s column, other than the barbaric and heinous attacks by those heartless terrorists that took place 11 years ago today? Thousands of people in New Jersey, New York City and the District of Columbia started their mornings on that day in their usual manner, but since then things have never been the same, for them and for the rest of the world. In cold blood, fewer than 20 men rocked the boat globally through their unjustifiable, despicable and treacherous actions. Many innocent lives were lost during these attacks.
Each anniversary of this tragic day, I make a habit to set aside a substantial amount of time for myself to pray. My immediate prayers are always for the victims of these reprehensible attacks. I pray for those who died, and I pray even harder for their loved ones. I try to empathize with the pain and grief they must have felt on that day and ever since. I can only imagine the terror in the hearts and minds of those people who heard the news of the attacks and desperately tried to contact their loved ones in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. In the early hours of that horrific day, I can only imagine the pain of those who waited, in panic, to hear from a spouse, father, mother, son, daughter, relative or friend who would never come home. I can picture the flowing tears of those who finally received the heart-wrenching news about their loved ones, but I can only imagine their states of mind, how their thoughts sunk into deep sorrow. As I pray, I wonder: What do these people do every Sept. 11? How do they hold it together? I bring up these wounded souls in my thoughts and prayers and pray for strength, recovery and healing for them.
I pray that as a nation we will never fail to hold these people, support them in any way that we can, and remember them in our thoughts and prayers. I pray that their stories will not be stolen from them. I hope and pray that we will not pour salt into their bleeding wounds, abusing their memories by using them to score political points or advance our own agenda. Immediate relatives of the victims personally told me that seeing 9/11 misused to justify all sorts of non-worthy and cheap things deeply hurt them and increased their pain.
I also pray that we will, as our wounds are healed gradually, continue to grow from this calamity. One of the most helpful ways that we can turn these evil terrorist attacks into blessings is to use the pain and lessons to improve our empathy toward those nations and societies that are still battling this cancer of terror. We should stand in solidarity with those who have experienced similar violence and destruction in their own lands.
There is no doubt that our immediate reactions to these despicable crimes didn’t always reveal our best sides. Often anger, revenge and frustration took the lead from common sense, wisdom and compassion. We were deeply shaken by the impact of 9/11, and at times our fears took over our hopes and understandably all we wanted was to take revenge. This unhealthy situation changed us, damaged our civic culture, and as a result, we found ourselves partially going astray from our principals and moral values. But after 11 years of stormy developments, costly adventures and sailing in unhelpful and counterproductive waters, I pray that we can now return to our senses and forcefully disallow these reprehensible attacks from defining us or our national history. I pray that we can reach out to our sources of strength and find a way to uphold the foundational ideals of this country and return to those qualities that make our nation great, even after partially shying away from them in the years following 9/11.
And last but not least, I pray that the upcoming presidential elections will be a turning point in this healing process and that its outcome will provide answers to my prayers. We will show ourselves and the rest of the world that the worst is over—that we are on our way to being in a better place than where we were before.
In addition, I hope, as a clergyman, that I will be accepted for sharing these prayerful reflections in a highly confessional and spiritual language. These are my sincere personal prayers and hopes. Some might dismiss these prayers as the wishful thinking of a naïve Imam, but I invite all those who are willing to join me in saying a heartfelt “Amen!” to them.
Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim Chaplain and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Abdullah on Twitter @aantepli