Every week of September 11 since 2001, I remember where I was on that fateful day. Even today, fourteen years later, I still find it eerie to have been one of the last persons on the planet to hear the news. More importantly, however, I think about how opposite of the terrorist attackers was the spirit of thousands of stranded passengers and their unexpecting hosts across Canada and the U.S., who chose to build community together during those unpredictable days instead of being at each other’s throats – despite their many and varied personal, ideological, and religious differences.
“Selfish interest and alienation were transformed into opportunities for self-denial, cooperation among the different, and unity in diversity,” I wrote in an essay that was published for the one-year anniversary of 9/11. “A depth of compassion and caring had been awakened in us that I don’t think we knew we carried within, amid our wood, hay, and stubble. Heaven broke in and walls broke down between races, professions, classes, nationalities. Human suffering tasted something sweet of the saving grace of God as strangers became neighbors.”
I called that spirit “the kindness of strangers,” which arose within these completely impromptu and highly diverse communities across the U.S. and Canada. If you would like to read the full essay about this “opposite spirit” and the amazing fruit it produced, and why I was one of the last persons on the planet to hear the news, here it is.
©2015 by Charles Strohmer
Image: laser memorial of the Twin Towers (credit lost).
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