The Right Revd David Oakley, Bishop of Northampton gave a ‘Pause for Thought’ reflection on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Bishop Oakley answered the question: ‘Where Were You When…’. Broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on Monday 6 September.
This week, our world remembers the twentieth anniversary of that terrible event known as 9/11. I was working at home in my parish of Cheadle when someone mentioned what was happening. I switched on the TV just as the second plane smashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. Those images are still held in my mind today.
To be honest, it took a while to sink in that this wasn’t a terrible accident, but a deliberate act of terrorism. Not for the first time, our world was facing what some thinkers call ‘the mystery of evil’.
After the shock and disbelief, many felt anger. When we watch tragedies unfolding in our world, we may become indifferent. We might experience compassion fatigue. But 9/11, this deliberate act of violence, also made us feel very insecure. People were going about their daily business, and then this happened. Four years later, London experienced acts of terror. The London bombings took place on our doorstep and made those of us here in the UK feel even more vulnerable.
How can it be that despite our security systems, we can become caught up in sudden moments of violence. And the question hangs in the air, why do people do these evil things?
Well, I’m not going to foist my answer to that question on you. But I do want to focus on something else at work in all of this. After the 9/11 attack in New York, the emergency services scrambled into action. Over 400 fire and police officers, and paramedics lost their lives, as they rushed to save others.
The human spirit is very resilient. Every day, people go out of their way to do good for others. It was kindness and goodness which helped get us through the dark days of the pandemic. Individuals and communities lending a hand so that no one felt isolated and in need. And it seems to me, through many tragedies, we can still find something to celebrate.