A defining moment

Six years ago this morning, I became a peace activist.

Without a doubt, September 11, 2001 is the defining moment of our generation. Millions watched on tv as two planes did the unthinkable and flew into the World Trade Center. Guts were wrenched, lives were lost, and our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and "On Terror" were launched. In my life, it was the moment that my priorities shifted and I tuned into what I think is my purpose on this earth ... to work for peace in the little ways I can.

I was in Portland, Oregon that morning getting ready for work and listening to NPR as was my routine. As I stood in the bathroom brushing my teeth, the radio announcer suddenly lost the ability to speak. I knew something was wrong in the world and rushed to turn on the tv, just in time to see the 2nd plane hit.

In a daze, I somehow found my way to work. My heart was broken, and I couldn't help but think that more death and destruction would follow as our country tried to make sense of it all and look for revenge. An eye or an eye, a tooth for a tooth, your children must die because mine did. What I didn't expect was that those around me, those I worked with and even close friends would be catching the revenge bug. I felt so out of place, so out of tune with my surroundings. All of my coworkers' cubicles were festooned with American Flag signs and revenge filled slogans ... I made my own sign with a peace dove. Whenever I opened my mouth and talked about my concerns that more innocent lives would be lost across the globe in retaliation, people looked at me like I had two heads. What kind of American was I?

Luckily for me (and I suspect it was more God than luck), I found my way into two communities where I didn't feel like a freak for my desire to work for peace. First, an artist friend of mine shared her vision to help get this advertisement on the sides of buses. It features a beautiful picture of some Afghan children and a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent misery rather than to avenge it?". It completely captured the movement of my own heart in those dark days. I offered to help her raise money to get the ad on the buses and to set up a website. Our local bus company at first refused to sell us ad space on the buses because the message was too political! I used my bureaucratic background to help convince them otherwise, and the ads were eventually placed on 5 City buses in Portland.

I also found my way into an interfaith peace group that was meeting at the local Friends Meeting House. These were my people, and I started to get involved in our local peace movement. Eventually I got tired of being the only Catholic at the table and looked into restarting our local Pax Christi chapter. Before I knew it, I'd become a bureaucrat by day and a peace activist in all of my other waking hours. One day it dawned on me that I should do something about that, which played a big part in the journey that has me here in the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.

It's six years later, which is hard to believe.
  • 2,974 people died as a direct result of the attacks on the World Trade Center (source).

  • The Department of Defense confirms 3,774 US military deaths and 27,186 wounded in Iraq as of today (source).

  • Documented civilian deaths in Iraq are between 71,510 and 78,081 (source). The actual number is more than 600,000 (source).
The numbers speak for themselves. On this anniversary day, please join me in praying for peace.


Tess said...

It's inspiring to read of what you did and are doing, what so many individuals did and are doing. I pray that the work will continue.

Anonymous said...

War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.

Jimmy Carter (1924 - )

Went to church this am-I expected to see a lot more people...so far you have been the only SisterBlogger to remember-lets pray we never forget!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Susan. Thank you for putting this into words in a way that I haven't been able to without becoming stressed out and angry myself.

Counselor in Process said...

I blogged about it, too. I was here in NYC-where I live- that day. It was a life changing. I can't imagine going to work after seeing that on TV. I never thought people did.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Having spent the past year here in New Jersey with a view of NYC, I have noticed that the experience of 9/11 was understandably much more intense here than it was out in the Northwest. Distance makes a difference I think.

Most people I knew in Portland found there way to work that morning, although I doubt much work actually got done.

kabloona said...

"Six years ago this morning, I became a peace activist Without
a doubt, September 11, 2001 is the defining moment of our
generation. "

Intersting experience. I was in grammar school, high school,
and college during the Vitenam War.

"All of my coworkers' cubicles were festooned with American Flag
signs and revenge filled slogans."

I was criticized by co-workers for expressing fear for the
safety of Arabs and Moslems living in the U.S.A.

I was seven blocks away from the WTC when the planes hit.

The following are my experiences of 9/11. The first one is rather lengthy.




A poem about NY that is post 9/11 themed:


kabloona said...

I envy you. I have never experienced anything that caused me to change my life the way you have. Unfortunately, I am a passive person (passive-aggresive actually).