Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—11 September A.D. 2011
Tenth Anniversary of Whatever Happened
About a week ago a lady asked me if I intended to preach a special sermon for the anniversary of the disaster at the World Trade Center ten years ago on September 11th. At first I sort of “blew her off,” for I have always felt that we have not heard a coherent explanation of the events of that day, and that the tragedy had been used for political purposes, to whip up enthusiasm for a senseless war. But the lady persisted, reminding me that a lot of innocent people died that day, and that they were deserving of our prayers. She was, of course, correct. It is always a “holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” It is also quite proper to recognize the heroic and selfless acts of many who were involved, and the significant number that lost their lives trying to help others, for “greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
But first, a word or two about why the official explanations of the event are inadequate. I am not going to re-hash any of the scientific data, for anyone who is interested can go to the Internet or to the literature and read a great deal about the maximum temperature of burning jet fuel and the melting point of steel; or about the physics of a controlled demolition; or the sequence in which events took place; or who seemed to know in advance that the buildings would fall; or who seemed to be pleased with the terrible events. Those things are available for anyone with an interest.
My personal expertise has much more to do with history than with physics, so I will relate the reasons why any of the various alternative accounts of the disaster might seem plausible and contradict the others.
First, the standard account: that Moslem terrorists hijacked airliners and used them as flying suicide bombs, intending to destroy the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and perhaps the White House. Well, history makes that rather believable, for since the death of Mohammad in 632 AD a continuous war of conquest raged against the non-Moslem countries of the world:
In the seventh century, Eastern Arabia was conquered immediately (632-634), Jerusalem (636), Egypt (640), Persia (modern Iran) (643), Libya (644), Armenia (648), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India (660-711), Algeria (670), Modern Iraq (680), Carthage (698). In the eighth century Southern and Eastern Spain were conquered (711-712), Toulouse (721). Charles Martel did repel the invaders in France in the 730s. In the ninth century, Sardinia was conquered (827), Rome was sacked, and Saint Peter’s looted (846), and Corsica was conquered (850). The Crusades to take back formerly Christian lands ran almost two hundred years from 1095 to 1291, during which the Holy Land was liberated (1099), and lost again (1187).
Between 1200 and 1500 there were conquests in the East Indies, and the conversion of Mongolia (c. 1300), parts of China, and many of the countries on the southern edge of the old USSR. The expulsion from Spain did not take place until 1492, after a roughly 750 year occupation. Moslems unsuccessfully laid siege to various places for another three hundred years: Siege of Vienna (1529), Malta (1565), Lepanto (1571), Molodi (near Moscow) (1572), Vienna—right up to the city gates (1683). Finally, in 1827, the battle of Navarino signaled a conclusive end to Moslem domination of the Mediterranean.
Certainly, with a history like that, the idea of an attack by Moslems who “hate us for our freedoms” seemed plausible. Unfortunately, so does the idea of a government scheme to push the nation into war. Back as far as Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, it became policy to attack civilians and to consider citizens and soldiers expendable: the sinking of the USS Maine and the Lusitania come to mind, as do Pearl Harbor and the terror bombings of World War II. More recently we have witnessed the murder of civilians at Ruby Ridge, the Waco massacre, and the Oklahoma City bombing—all of which led to calls by the usual suspects to curtail the second and fourth amendments to our Constitution. Indeed, it took the tragedy of 9/11 for them to succeed in curtailing the fourth amendment, with the miss-named “patriot act.” “War is a racket,” to quote United States Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, who was in a position to know. “War is a racket!” People well placed in the military-industrial-financial complex had a lot to gain by fomenting no-win wars in Western Asia, just as they had to gain by entering World War I. The 9/11 tragedy provided a convenient opportunity for pro‑war public sentiment.
There is also the “false flag” theory of 9/11. It would not be the first time in history that someone was attacked by someone else claiming to be a friend and masquerading as an enemy. Nero blamed the Christians of Rome for burning the City, Hitler blamed the Communists for the Reichstag fire, Lyndon Johnson blamed them for the Gulf of Tonkin incident. In Operation Northwoods, the Joint Chiefs wanted John F. Kennedy to bomb American interests in order to blame Fidel Castro’s Cuba—to his credit, Kennedy refused. The USS Liberty was nearly sunk by allegedly “friendly fire” in an attempt to cover up an attack on Egypt. Certainly the Arab countries have their enemies in the Middle East, who would benefit from American anger directed at the Arabs.
Now, I have given you three plausible scenarios. Doubtless there are others. If we are to learn anything from the tragedy of 9/11 it should be that Americans take an adequate interest in their government to make all three of these scenarios unlikely if not impossible in the future.
As citizens in a Republic we all have the obligation to insure that our Nation is run according to the principles of the natural moral law, and with a self-enlightened prudence. It is not like we live in a dictatorship—we claim to run our own government. May the horror of September 11, AD 2001 always serve to remind us of the gravity of this responsibility!
And, yes, we do have an obligation to pray for the dead—no matter how they came to be killed. Modern day Americans are not always prepared to meet death. Virtually everyone that died left home that morning expecting to return to their family and friends. Probably very few received the Sacraments before going to work—fewer still are likely to have made an act of contrition. Certainly there is a great need for prayer.
And it is appropriate to acknowledge and draw strength from the courage and heroism our fellow citizens displayed on that day. One never knows when we will be called upon to emulate them. There were people who helped others down the stairs, the blind and the weak. Some stayed in place, directing others with less presence of mind to safety. Two men carried a woman in a wheel chair down some sixty stories. Others, against all instinct of self-preservation ran up the steps to assist in the evacuation—building people, police and fire men. At least one retired fireman reported for duty. Numbers of rescue workers and their dogs went through the toxic rubble for months, probably bringing premature death upon themselves. A small army of volunteers was bussed to a nearby hospital to donate blood so that others might survive. At least one priest died ministering to the dying. No doubt there were many such heroes, many doing other heroic things—I have mentioned no names, because mentioning a few would be to leave out many others.
So on this tragic day we offer our prayers for the dead, and to thank God for those who took heroic action. But most of all, we pray that nothing like this will ever happen again, and that we, as citizens, will do what is politically necessary to make it very unlikely!
 2 Machabees xii:46 http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=46&ch=12&l=46&f=s#x
 Thomas Jefferson, 1 March 1801 (Inauguration) http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau1.asp