I visited Ground Zero this week. It’s such a stark reminder of the religious extremism present in our world today, and the toll those extremists take. But it’s also a reminder of our ability to face our reality in the darkest of moments and respond with dignity and hope.
The 911 Memorial is unlike anything I’ve seen before. If you have not had a chance to go, I urge you to make the time. There are twin reflecting pools set in the earth, sitting on the footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood. The pools are fed by perimeter water falls, which cascade down from ground level to a large square pool, some thirty-forty feet below. But then from there, the water cascades down through a smaller square to depths, unseen from above. It gave me the feeling that the water might be flowing down, deep underneath the earth and back toward the sea — very powerful.
Names of the people who died in the terrorist attacks of 911 are engraved in bronze panels surrounding the upper level of the water falls. Friends and loved ones sometimes place flowers in the engraved names. Directories help you find the panels where friends and loved ones are memorialized. It is somber and still beautiful.
Then up from the ground new buildings and towers reach toward the sky. Many including Freedom Tower are yet unfinished but on the day I visited, low mist gave the sense that the tower extended far up into the clouds.
I looked up and thought about the violence, fear and pain which had taken place directly above and all around me on that tragic day. I thought about the spirits and souls who were caught in all that destruction. I felt a deep sense of hurt and emptiness and compassion and loss. I walked around the grounds and tried to take in the totality of the events. Such a mix of emotions… I felt angry, I’ll admit, and sad. But I also felt pride in the collective spirit of our society to respond this way. The grounds are tastefully done and accessible to all who wish to pay their respects.
The terrorists who committed these horrific acts reportedly did them in the name of God. From my experience, meeting many thousands of people along the journey with “God In The Box,” the kind of person who commits such acts does not belong to a religion of faith — they belong to the religion of extremism and the religion of fanaticism and the religion of terror. I find it important to remember that there are many more reasonable people of faith, and many more reasonable people who don’t believe in God at all.
As I leave the memorial, with much sorrow and a heavy heart, I think about the families and survivors who lost people they loved on September eleventh. I think about the fanatical few who caused so much loss. And I think about the vast majority of the rest of us, and our responsibility to carry on as civilized people, even through the worst of what the fanatics can do. The 911 Memorial represents a beautiful and dignified manner in which we can mourn our losses gracefully and move forward with the knowledge that the acts of the designers, builders and visitors of this memorial are also done in the spirit of a peaceful God.
Nathan Lang, Director, “God In The Box”