Do unto others

Column: 9/11 solidarity: Then and now

by Bill Scholl

Nine… Eleven: Has it been eight years already? If you were old enough to remember 2001, you remember. You remember where you were, who you were with, the smells and sounds when you first heard the news or saw the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.

Thinking about that day and the days that followed brings back moments that are hard to communicate. There were moments of horror and heroics that surpass words; all congealed into a gestalt which cannot be defined, only described.

For a time, we all palpably felt our connectedness as one human family. This awareness defines, better than a thousand lectures or a hundred pages of the written word, the Catholic concept of solidarity.

Solidarity, the social principle that we as humans are intrinsically connected and mutually responsible to each other and the good of all, did not need to be enumerated to the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, strangers who came together to save the lives of strangers on the ground. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the  Church quotes the late Pope John Paul II on the practice of solidarity: “One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her; and for that person’s sake one must be ready for sacrifice, even the ultimate one: to lay down one’s life for the brethren” (no. 196). I doubt any of the firemen who ran in while others ran out, perhaps with the exception of Father Mychal Judge, had ever read that statement. They didn’t need to; they just knew it and they lived it.

Without being asked, people from all over the world just started giving. They gave blood, they gave money, and they gave time — many sacrificing their health for the pious, yet gruesome, task of salvaging and burying the dead.

While it was an American tragedy, it was also a global tragedy. The whole human family felt the pain and, in so doing, came together. This is much like when a family member suffers an untimely death, and the rest of the family comes together. All of a sudden, you forget an uncle’s penchant for inappropriate remarks or the cousin’s slight of a few weddings back. The loss puts reality into focus, and the family feels its connectedness. If you remember that time, you remember the connectedness of the human family.

Eight years later, the human family’s connectedness can be hard to realize at times: Wars linger on and start. Countries exploit immigrants. Short-term local economic interests trump sound conservation of the Earth. And the culture of death gains greater footholds in courts and institutions.

Much about 9/11 needs be remembered . . . our solidarity, most of all.

About the author

Deacon Bill Scholl

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