A few weeks ago, I called the oil company that services the furnace in my home, to have it tuned up for the winter. When the woman asked what day I wanted for the appointment, I said, "September 11," because I'd be home that day. Her response was immediate: "Oh, that terrible day," and I actually thought I heard tears in her voice. She said she had been delivering a local newspaper at that time, and her connection with the paper had made her feel very affected by events.
She isn't the only person I've talked to recently who vividly recalls the terrorist attacks eight years ago that sent American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 into the World Trade Center and American Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. United Flight 93 was also taken over by terrorists, but passengers resisted and the plane crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pa.
It's as though there continues to be a prolonged mourning, a feeling that the national and global troubles that began in those terrible moments still refuse to let people go.
Finding peace will continue to be elusive as long as thought dwells on the sorrow, anger, fear, or anguish one feels, however justifiably, over these events. I think real peace comes from a spiritual change – an uplifting of the heart through the influence of God's love, or the Christ-spirit that Jesus embodied for all humanity.
I love the promises in the Beatitudes Jesus gave us. One is "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4). Each individual can let this promise speak to him or her – can literally ask for the comfort of Christ and expect an answer that will bring more peace in life.
For me, a feeling of being comforted about 9/11 came in an unusual way. Not long after the attacks, I attended a workshop in Cambridge, Mass., that included religion writers from across the United States. As I chatted with them, I asked individuals from different areas how they had felt about the attack on New York, thinking that while they might express sympathy, the events would have had little effect on them.
To my surprise, each person I spoke to mentioned some specific association between their community and New York. One person's city had a connection through military contracts, another through businesses linked to the New York Stock Exchange. They also told me they had prayed for New York's welfare and safety. Later, a friend in Germany sent me pictures of Germans who had gathered in support of American safety and peace.
I realized from these encounters that in the world's darker moments, people aren't oblivious. There is a kind of network of universal prayer that reaches out to support and comfort those in trouble. This knowledge is a powerful antidote to grief. Instead of being alone, people in New York were being held in the love of these individuals and many, many others. This universal love is still a present force for good in the world.
Even in the face of overwhelming evil, such love stands firm in support of goodness, intelligence, and strength. It is evidence of Christ – of God's love for humanity, expressed in individual lives.
Mary Baker Eddy elaborated on this point in her "Communion Hymn." Speaking of the Christ, she wrote:
Mourner, it calls you,–/ "Come to my bosom,/ Love wipes your tears all away,/ And will lift the shade of gloom,/ And for you make radiant room/ Midst the glories of one endless day." ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 298).
The way ahead to victory over terrorism may be shadowed with gloom, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue. But just as the people I spoke to had reached out with love to New York City during its trials, we can reach out to the people of those countries, and to citizens and military personnel from many nations who are endeavoring to establish order and safety for the people. Our prayers can also include the international leaders who are striving to find intelligent answers to global security issues for all their people.
In this way we will be aligning ourselves with Love, with the God who does "wipe all tears away." And in the process, our own tears must be wiped away as well. Love can open the way for us to be free of fear, hatred, anger, and sorrow, and to know God's endless goodness and care. This is the spiritual reality of your life and mine. It's the reality for all people, even those who appear to reject it. For all who are willing to hear and accept this call, however, it offers comfort and peace.