I Remember Today: People Always Pay

Every year, I remember 9/11 with grief and disbelief. I was a college student on September 11, 2001. I was newly married. As were all of us, I was unprepared for the impact that day would have even as we watched the second plane hit the second tower and heard about the fateful events of United Flight 93. Like all of us, I will always remember all the associated feelings and gravity of this terrorist strike against our nation.

This year my heart turned toward the cost of this strike, remembering the Gospel reading from Luke 14 that came up in our lectionary recently in which Jesus asked, “Which of you, when building a tower, would not first count the cost to make certain you could finish in order to avoid being laughed at if you couldn’t finish?” (Luke 14:28-30…very paraphrased).

So today I remember that it’s always people who pay the true debts of war.

I Remember Today…

I remember today that the cost of 9/11 is best measured in bodies. 2,977 persons lost their lives that day, and many who inhabited Ground Zero during its cleanup have died of illnesses understood to be a result of their work. The cost is not only in lives, but in families mourning and in a nation that hasn’t recovered its sense of comfort.

I remember today that the result of our response to the 2,977 persons who died in a terrorist strike is that this year we now have wars old enough to vote. My grief is complicated as I observe what our vengeance has wrought in the world by trying to do the impossible: bring peace with war.

I remember today that people always pay the true debts of war, as I pray for the members of our military past, present, and future, active duty and reservists, and as I pray I know that where our military is deployed they and their families suffer from separation.

I remember today that the result of our response to the 2,977 persons who died in a terrorist strike is that 6,875 members of our military have died in service to their country according to the DOD’s Casualty Status on August 28, 2019.

I remember today that according to this same report, the result of our response to the 2,977 persons who died in a terrorist strike is that 52,969 persons serving in the military were wounded in action. These persons were fortunate to come home alive, yet they bear the wounds and scars of this service — this number represents physical wounds, but add to these numbers the many many more uncounted veterans and current members of our military whose wounds are rooted in psychological, moral, and spiritual injuries leading to addiction, divorce and other dissolution of families, long-term physical and mental health problems, and an unprecedented number of suicides by persons who have answered the call of this country with distinction.

I remember today that it is people who always pay the true debts of war, and revenge destroys our heart.

I remember today that our politicians pontificate and talk about what an awful shame it is that 2,977 died and we have more enemies than friends. Yet 2,977 persons remain dead while the wars continue, and our current administration is trying to strip rights and citizenship from our soldiers and their families who serve their adopted homeland with dignity. In the name of fear and separatism, waving a flag while diverting funds from supporting active duty and retired members and families in order to build a wall that every expert has said repeatedly will not work, the current administration persists in these policies.

I remember today that it is the People who always pay the true debts of war, and fear has claimed our soul.

I remember today that the result of our response to the 2,977 persons who died in a terrorist strike is that $1,700,000,000 — 1.7 TRILLION DOLLARS — has been spent to exact revenge and topple governments. While it wasn’t the immediate intent, this debt we service has funded the destruction of families just like ours, disrupted and destroyed neighborhoods just like ours, schools just like ours, and cities just like ours.

I remember today that it is the PEOPLE who always pay the true debts of war, and $1.7 trillion of our treasure shows us inarguably where our heart is.

I remember today that the result of our response to the 2,977 persons who died in a terrorist strike is that we live into the habits we’ve chosen as, once again, we lack the potency of heart to wage peace. Terrorists on 9/11 murdered 2,977 innocent people in their attacks, but according to a Brown University study updated in March 2019, “As of November 2018, at least 244,000 civilians in these three countries have died violent deaths as a result of the wars. Civilian deaths have also resulted from the US military operations in Yemen, Syria, Somalia and other countries in the U.S. war on terrorism”. The ripples of 9/11 are found in oceans of blood costing trillions of dollars, yet we can’t seem to find money for healthcare.

I remember today that the People always pay the true debts of war, and our vengeance has poisoned the world.

I remember today that this is the cost of war: human lives and human families who suffer in every theater both at home and abroad. Our enemy, foreign and domestic, is our own insatiable appetite for unattainable security.

I remember today and will not forget that we can’t bomb anyone into loving us, but we can love those who hate us and create friends out of enemies.

In a moment of unspeakable grief, we did what any person would do, we lashed out at people who hurt us — it’s such a human action lived out by an entire nation. After 18 years, we’re no longer responding in grief. After 18 years, we are choosing our response and choosing our actions and choosing our violence in a way that reveals our darkest character: we are a nation steeped in the blood of people who always pay the true debts of war, of oppression, of greed, of unresolved pain, of uncontested sins that lie at the very root of our culture.

I love this nation — I love it with a love that is unreasonable and unshakable, with a love that’s paternal because I believe my citizenship makes me and all of us parents of our nation because our votes elect representatives who make possible these exercises of power. This isn’t what we do, this is who we choose to be.

We, the People, always bear the true debts of war because we are accountable for the actions of this nation.

I remember today. I will never forget.

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