“Sometimes it is in moments of trauma that New York shows its best face, whether it was the 7:00pm celebration of essential workers in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, or the way first responders, construction workers, and so many others streamed down West Street to see how they could help after the towers fell, and then so many others would applaud first responders as they left the site each day.”
~ Shaaray Tefila Member, Larry Silverstein
“When does 9/11 fall this year?” is a question many of us have heard and, in hearing it, we cannot help but pause. Indeed, like July Fourth or January First, 9/11 is a date that now rises from the calendar’s page. And yet, even with the passing of years, it remains a date entirely unlike any other. To hear those numbers is to be reminded, in an instant, of where we were, of what we were doing, of the way we felt when two towers fell, a plane crashed in Pennsylvania, and the pictures aired of the Pentagon burning.
With the beginning of 5782, we reflect upon the year that was and the year that will be – where we have been as well as where we hope to be when the High Holy Days arrive again. In a year in which so many lost their lives, we again find ourselves before the Book of Life, and pray for the families worldwide with empty chairs around the dinner table, the empty seats in the sanctuary, empty bedrooms, and heavy hearts.
As a people, we seem to have become experts in the field of memory. An entire portion of our Yom Kippur liturgy is devoted to just that: Yizkor. Remembering those no longer with us.
This week, during our Days of Awe, will mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. No American alive at the time was untouched by this tragedy. Some lost loved ones, friends, or livelihoods. Some still have physical, psychological, or spiritual scars from that terrible day. Hundreds of New York’s Bravest and New York’s Finest gave their lives that day. Some Americans sent their sons and daughters off to defend our nation from further attacks, and thousands of those sons and daughters paid the ultimate sacrifice.
We remember them all. We hold them, and we hold their families, in our hearts.
I’d like to share a reading by Alan Paton, which was adapted for the anniversary of September 11 by Rabbi Lindsey Bat Joseph.
Eternal our God,
open our eyes that we may see the needs of others;
open our ears that we may hear their cries;
open our hearts so that they need not be without succor;
let us not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show us where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use us to bring them to those places.
And so open our eyes and our ears
that this day we may be able to do some work of peace for You.