National Day of Mourning
© 2001 Don Murray

Don Murray is a retired United Church of Canada minister
who lives near Truro, Nova Scotia. He is also an educator and author,
and his latest book, Celebrating Eve, was published in May.

Our bubble has been burst. The feeling that we are immune from terrorist violence has crumbled with the crumbling of the World Trade Towers in New York. The United States is too close, too much a neighbour, too intertwined with who we are to leave us untouched and unscathed.

As we stand transfixed in front of the television there is almost a sense of Armageddon. The world we knew is forever changed. We feel vulnerable and afraid. We weep for the victims, for ourselves, and for a world that can never be quite the same again.

Our hearts stop and our minds go numb as the television relentlessly shows the plane flying full speed into the tower, then the towers crumbling into rubble. These images are forever seared into our consciousness.

That we are watching the lives of massive numbers of people being snuffed out is more than we can grasp. By the time you read this the actual numbers may be known.

We are as yet too close to realize its full impact on us or on the world. We do know that the immediate response is compassion and anger.

Tragedy brings forth the best in us. Our hearts go out to the injured and the dead, and all who are intimately connected with them. In New York people are helping one another and there is little of the looting that so often is the dark side of tragedy. Firefighters, rescue workers, and medical people work to exhaustion to help.

We would all like to do something. Witness the response to the need for blood donors. Across the United States and Canada donor clinics are overwhelmed with the numbers. Atlantic Canada had opportunity to help as the airports received many of the incoming flights that were diverted from American destinations. Halifax, Gander, and Moncton met the challenge of providing food and shelter for thousands of stranded passengers.

Anger is also a natural response. Even though we know that violence always begets violence, when someone hits us we want to hit back. We can only pray that those in power focus more on justice than revenge.

We are, however, confronted with the reality and power of evil. Here is a case of intelligence and planning being focused on destruction. There is nothing new about this, of course. A major portion of human ingenuity and effort has always gone into destroying and killing. The reality for much of the world is a constant living with oppression and violence. But this brings it home to us. In a world that struggles to live with justice, terrorism is unacceptable.

Our opposition to terrorism need not blind us to our own involvement in a world that breeds violence. Our society seems fascinated by violence. We meet it at every turn, whether in movies, sports, or even video games. The underlying message is that brutal power reigns.

The targets of the terrorism were the United States centres of political power, the Pentagon, and financial power, the World Trade Towers. Can this be a call to look again at the values upon which we base our freedom and democracy?

We are easily critical of the greed and power which seem to be the gods our culture worships. Now we must painfully reëxamine the values we live by, knowing that we are all involved and all need to go deeper into our souls and touch the values of justice, love, and peace, which are the foundations of life.

Previously published in the Truro News, 9/15/2001. Reprinted with permission.