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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One Last Thing

I came to St. Matthew's Cathedral yesterday evening knowing that I was no closer to reconciling my anger with God than I was five years ago. Knowing that "Why?" and every permutation of that question were still my catechism for him. The homily was roughly five minutes long and its thesis was that the perpetrators of Sept. 11 lacked humility. That's it. They lacked humility. A ridiculous epilogue, made more maddening by the failure to in any way to address the corrosiveness of that day on people of shaken faith. When the mass concluded and people remained in the pews--I have to believe because they'd decided that sitting in silence might lead them to something that the inscrutable homily could not--the cantor went to the microphone and thanked people for coming but announced that the cathedral was closing in 10 minutes.

After mass, I drove out to my parents' hushed and empty house in Maryland for a sad task. I was fully in the gray by the time I returned to my own home and sat on the couch, ready for the day to come to an end. PBS was replaying a 2002 Frontline production called "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero." In it, religious leaders, victims' relatives, scholars, artists and others speak about their decision to embrace or reject their spiritual beliefs in the events' aftermath. "If there is a god, he is a very indifferent god," says one. An Islamic scholar's voice cracks as he describes the moment of realization that "this remarkable amount of ugliness was committed in the name of the faith you believe in." One woman, whose mother died in the towers' collapse, describes the "deep, ancient rituals" of Catholicism that brought her from rejection of God back to a belief that "this cannot be God's will." Another says coldly that God has abandoned her.

Every Sunday since I was a little girl I had murmured with those around me for God to "deliver us from evil." I had taken it for granted that that would be done. So as I kneeled, stunned, in church on Sept. 12, 2001, it was this phrase that slapped me as it tumbled out of my mouth by rote. I was no more comfortable saying it yesterday than I was five years ago.

But as midnight came last night and Sept. 11, 2006, ended, the final words of "Faith and Doubt" played, accompanied by aerial footage of the beams that shine in memoriam at Ground Zero. Multiple interviewees described something that managed to rise above the cacophony of that day five years ago. They describe the photograph of a man and woman, perhaps strangers before that moment, reaching for each others' hands as they stepped off the ledge to their deaths. And hearing that, it reminds me for the first time in years about what I said to someone the day of the attacks: "I believe God in some way took fear away from the people forced to jump. Sleep, unconsciousness, something. He gave them that."

I believe God. I believe in God. I believe that that will never again be easy.


Anonymous Libba said...

My only way of dealing with these questions is to believe that no matter what horrible things might befall us, that God is with us, suffering with us, even. I remember hearing a story from Elie Weisel (sp?) about a young boy who was hanged in a concentration camp, and the other inmates were made to watch. As they stood there, someone cried, "Where is God now?" and someone else eventually responded, "God is hanging on the end of that rope."

2:25 AM  
Anonymous Alejandra said...

I thought this post was beautiful...

9:59 PM  
Blogger Brunch Bird said...

L- You know this is the kick in the pants I needed to read "Night." Had it in my hand on vacation but put it down because I was, you know, on vacation. But this is an excellent example.

A- Thanks. I'm a huge fan of your writing so that means a lot!

1:19 AM  

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