Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Matter of Definition

Here we are again, gentle readers, back again at 9-11. The ninth anniversary of the most significant attack on American soil in my own humble lifetime, and probably in most of yours.

Far from being the galvanizing force it was in its immediate aftermath, 9-11 this year is fraught with discord...those attacks were not an innoculation against fractiousness in our society; if anything, nine years on, they seem to have served as an injection of continuing upheaval. Just check out all the hoo-haw chronicled in the headlines of the last few weeks...the virtual firestorm surrounding efforts to establish a Muslim 'Cordoba' community center in close proximity to Ground Zero, the literally incendiary plans of Rev. Terry Jones to burn copies of the Quran, the warnings of reprisals against deployed American troops...the dominoes keep falling.

[I have been plenty exercised about the afore-mentioned Muslim center and have sputtered away considerably at the trusty keyboard here, but have spared you the unsatisfactory results (be glad). Far better that I direct you to a well-wrought column by Charles Krauthammer on this subject...if I can find it, I will post the relevant link here shortly.]

But today, this news item snagged my attention:

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (Sept. 11) -- The victims of Flight 93 are an inspiration and all who visit the rural field where they died on Sept. 11, 2001, will now "see how a scar in the earth has healed," first lady Michelle Obama said Saturday at a memorial service at the crash site honoring the 40 passengers and crew who died.

Former first lady Laura Bush joined Obama in rural western Pennsylvania, marking a rare joint public speaking appearance by two first ladies. Obama thanked her predecessor for helping the country through the difficult days following the attacks...Future generations would come to the site, she said, to "see how a scar in the earth has healed."

"It is truly my prayer today that all who come here will be filled with hope," she said."

Well, now, I must say, hope was not the first thought that came to my mind when our family happened by the clear, low-tech sign announcing the site of the Flight 93 this summer. Nope. We were driving home from our week in Washington,DC, our family vacation destination this past summer. Shanksville, as its name might suggest, is small town, rolling, green rural Pennsylvania. I doubt that many noticed they were driving through it prior to 2001, and I can testify that two months ago as we drove through, it would be easy to miss the white painted sign. But, Mr. H. slowed our vehicle and pulled over to the side of the two land road for a few minutes so we could read and remember...and explain to the younger Hollidays who were 10, 7, 4 and 1, respectively, when that rural field became an unplanned landing site.

Chalk it up to my more melancholy temper, but hope was not the emotion that sent a few tears trailing down my cheeks. It was sorrow for the death and destruction to which this site bore testimony. And awe at the selfless courage that drove victimized air passengers to thwart the evil scheme of evildoers. And anger.

Not having the ability to read the intent of Mrs. Obama or her speechwriter, I can only speculate that her reference to "hope" was meant as appreciation for the valor if the Flight 93 passengers. But, such virtues do not spring forth in a vacuum. A quick perusal of transcripts from cell phone calls of those passengers made minutes before impact makes it clear that many of them were drawing on a Source outside themselves to overcome what others had 'meant for evil.' If anyone needs a refresher, check out Let's Roll, by Todd Beamer. There's nothing unclear about what Rock he was standing on. His hope had a Source.

Hope IS important; I agree with Mrs. Obama on that. But let's be clear about how we define it--because it makes a difference. Without the real source, it's just empty rhetoric, devoid of the power so desperately needed. Real hope only comes from the Lord.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God"
Psalm 146:5

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