Why celebrate the anniversary of an evil act?
On this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we are surrounded by remembrances and reflections, and it is a worthy thing to mark this day with solemnity. “Lest we forget” is a common slogan, but like December 7, 1941, some dates live in infamy, and it can serve us well to recall the root of that infamy.
It was not the day, but the evil men did in it, that changed so many aspects of our lives and have colored every day since then. The war on terror, Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo, Threat Level, DHS, DNI, TSA and innumerable restrictions to be observed upon approaching air travel are commonplace this day because of what happened that day.
For many people the consequences were tragic, but it was no tragedy. Deliberate decision resulted in deadly action not by faceless forces but by human beings who were capable of and called to love. Their rejection of that call revealed anew to a society grown complacent that a free act is not simply by its freedom a good act.
Nonetheless, in the very instant of that incinerating denial of human dignity, there began a response, and a rebuttal. The selfless rush to aid the victims by first responders, and the informed sacrifice of passengers who refused to allow their plane to be used as a weapon, showed that when threatened by death, love will rear up and show its superior strength.
That was only the beginning. The whole nation stood and recognized what freedom is for. Sacrifice and service characterized the hours and days that followed, and in the wake of that sinister and selfish act, spread a renewed gratitude for every life and love that was left, intact or injured.
With time that diminishes. We remind ourselves now of the shock, the pain, the loss. We attempt to renew our resolve, but are distracted by the demands of this day. We see photographs and faces and feel for a moment that sublime bond of human kinship that was so strong when our weakness had been so plainly revealed, but that feeling quickly fades.
It is worth remembering the deeds of that day to pray for the souls who died, or suffered, or lost. It is worth remembering the evil of the day to recall that our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
For we are all vulnerable to evil, and we are all prone to sin. Not all human actions are good actions, just because they are freely chosen. Not all our free actions are good, just because they are ours. The scale need not be huge, nor the victims many, but when we choose selfishness, tragedy results.
We remember the day and its darkness to recall not the necessity, not the inevitability, but the possibility of light. We are capable of both, or either, but we must both choose and act. Sacrifice and service can transform acts of selfishness and sin into life-giving events. Love is stronger than death.
Why celebrate the anniversary of an evil act? The same reason each year we mark the day when men convinced of their righteousness killed God’s own Son. Not then, not now, does evil get the last word.