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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Reflections on remembering

Music marks the services of Sept. 11 weekend

Sept. 10, noon: Interfaith memorial service for the victims of Sept. 11 and March 11 in Madrid, Spain. St. Paul’s Chapel, New York.

Two great cities connected by death. We listen to a haunting piece by Pablo Casals (El cant dells O’Cell) in the place where rescue and recovery workers came for physical and spiritual rest. As we walk with an interfaith group of leaders from the chapel to ground zero for prayer, curious tourists stand in respectful silence. Some notice the clerical vestments and pass by with sardonic expressions; others bow their heads in prayer.

Around us the commodification of Sept. 11 continues as T-shirts and other memorabilia are hawked on the street. This September day is as hauntingly beautiful, sunny and fresh as that other one.

Sept. 11, 8 a.m.: I listen to Brahms Requiem as I drive across the George Washington Bridge, looking to my left at what Bruce Springsteen has called the “empty sky.” I arrive for a memorial service at Trinity in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for the Lutheran Latino community. Bishop Roy Riley of the New Jersey Synod joins me in leading this remembrance—a moment of silence at the time when the planes went into the buildings.

Across the river, blimps hover. The spotlight shines on Ground Zero. Here in this hardscrabble immigrant community we remember this “ground zero,” which stands beneath the radar and attention—a place where many are undocumented, many are the victims of a culture of “homeland security” and the continuing economic effects of Sept. 11. This is a church full of Latino leaders dedicating themselves to rebuild the entire city, especially the places no one wants to see.

Evening, Cathedral of St. John the Divine: Here, Lutheran-Episcopal “full communion” is lived out in a liturgy of “Prayers for the City.” Standing with Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, we sing the opening hymn together, written by Erik Routley. It includes this verse:

“Risen Lord! Shall the city be a city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
Be its name, “The Lord is there!”

“Guide my feet” sings the gospel singer. “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” she reminds us. Prayers rise, candles flicker. We leave singing O God, Our Help in Ages Past.

Home: Quiet conversations with family, each of whom have wounded memories to heal, loved faces remembered in the rubble. Thoughts of the many memorials around our metropolis and the world. Each of the remembrances in which I participated had one text: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house were locked for fear … Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).

Lutheran Disaster Response of New York offers reflections by Bouman and others.


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