Words from Thursday Night Memorial

Rev. Bob Olmstead
First United Methodist Church
Palo Alto, California

September 13, 2001

It would be good if we would all turn off the TV.
The talking heads are already assigning blame and debating what we should do next.

Moving on to what comes "next" is a sign of panic.
The impulse to "do something" is only distracts us from the task at hand.

We search for survivors, we comfort the injured and the grief stricken, we clean up the rubble.
We grieve.  For we have all lost something.

We didn't think it could happen here, but it did.
We thought somebody was in charge, but it turns out they cannot be everywhere at once. We want to believe we can eliminate danger, give our children a totally secure environment, but the truth gets driven home once more; we cannot.

One of our Methodist seminaries runs a day care center in northern New Jersey.  Among the parents who leave their children there for the day are some who work in the World Trade towers.  The day care center stayed open all night on Tuesday, because some of the parents never returned to pick up their children.  The loss of life will never be a tally of numbers; there will be no final total.  It's a day care center, open all night, waiting for parents who will never return.

In time the children will need to rebuild their lives - around the reality of what was taken from them.  
In time we will need to think about how to protect our children from such tragedies.  But not tonight.  
Tonight just hold the children tight.

Two of the largest structures ever raised by human ingenuity have been destroyed by bombs of our own devising.  
The loss of convenience and ease of travel may be irretrievable.  Within months we will be cursing and complaining the delays and the inconvenience.  
Don't go there - yet.  Stay right here with what we have lost.

Our innocence has crumbled along with the two tall towers.  Do not confuse innocence with hope.  They are not the same.  Do not confuse vengeance with justice.  They are not the same.  If our hope crumbles that loss will exceed all others.

Not "next" but now, we remember people who boarded a plane in Boston or Newark, expecting to land hours later in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

We remember the people who were prepared to meet them here until they got a call from the airline, telling them there would be no arriving flight.

We remember people who went off to work in New York or Washington, carrying their laptop computers, their briefcases of papers, their cell phones, their bananas, their appointment books.  

We remember the police officers and the firefighters who rushed to help before the towers crushed them.

We remember children who stayed all night in a day care center because nobody came to take them home.

What can we do, not "next" but now?  Come together.  That's just about the most important thing of all.  Come together.
Pray.  Of course.
Give blood.  
Give money.
But most important of all - give hope.

How do we do that?
Get up in the morning and go about your daily work.  On a day like this that constitutes a resurrection.  Humanity has been attacked.  To go on living is a resurrection.

Give hope.
Hold your children and your grandchildren - or for that matter, hold an aging parent or a frightened friend - hold them a little tighter and a little longer.  Don't begrudge them the time they take.  That constitutes a resurrection in the face of wounds.  And our spirits are wounded.

Give hope.
Create beauty.  Sing a song.  Cultivate a rose.  Watch the sun rise . . . or set.  Beauty constitutes a resurrection in the face of death.

Tend to your spirit.  There is the dwelling place of God.  That can never be destroyed.

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