Eleven years ago, one of my best friends, Frank, lost his life some hundred stories up in the World Trade Center where he worked for Canter, Fitzgerald. Today, I remember him as we also remember others. Just this morning, as I sat down to write this post, I received a call from another college friend who also knew Frank well and who calls each year on 9/11 so we can remember him, together. I think of Frank nearly every day. I am often haunted by my own thoughts about what it must have been like for him to struggle in those moments just before his floor collapsed.
Each of us can remember where we were on that dreadful day. For me, I was at home in my study finishing a piece on “civic faith” of all things (which came from a speech on the topic). I wrote then, and continue to believe today, that there is something called “civic faith,” and it is something we are each called to. It is about our belief in ourselves and in one another that we have the experience, know-how, and wisdom to get things done, together. It is about seeing and hearing all people – because only then can we know what we need to know to create a more perfect union. Civic faith is grounded in the idea that we are each part of something larger than ourselves. And it is about the innate goodness and potential in people – in all of us – just waiting to be tapped. And it is more, if I had more time and space this morning.
As I wrote that morning about civic faith, I received a phone call to tell me to turn on my television. There, I watched, as we all did, and I worried about our country, and feared for Frank. I remember that day my young daughter, who had been sent home from school, as were all kids in the Washington, D.C, area, ask me from her second floor window whether the terrorists would next come after us Jews in the U.S. The world had been turned upside down.
I say all this after watching these past few weeks, every night, first the Republican Convention and then the Democratic Convention. Our politics only get uglier by the day... less relevant… and continually further away from a shared civic faith. I say this regardless of party affiliation or some people’s great passion this election season. Our politics do not help us gain greater coherence about things, more meaning, or a sense of possibility. And yet, that is exactly what we need; what so many people are yearning for.
It is only together that we can move forward. So, on this day, let us remember those who have been lost, and let us also remind ourselves of the connections that fill up our lives. May we keep sacred memories close to our hearts, and reach out to others to create new ones. On this day, let us recommit ourselves to a more perfect union, amid the imperfections.