The following is a copy of the Reverend Andrea Raynors’s remarks from the City of Rye 9-11 Ceremony. You can see the full video and schedule of speakers here.
19th Anniversary of September 11, 2001
Rev. Andrea Raynor
On this, the 19th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we come together to remember and to grieve those who were lost—people who simply got up and went to work on that beautiful September morning. Friends and neighbors, family members, lives and loves that can never be replaced were taken from us in the most shocking and traumatic and public way. We hold them in our hearts, along with the countless children who grew up with little or no memories of their fathers or mothers.
We also remember the brave men and women who ran toward the burning towers at great personal peril. We honor those who risked their lives—and those who lost their lives—on that day and in the years that have followed, as 9/11-related cancers continue to take their toll. And we come to support all who are still haunted by images that remain unspoken or locked away behind the deep scars left on their hearts.
If you are having trouble mustering your empathy and compassion this year, it may be because our community, our nation, our world is on grief overload. In the midst of this pandemic, with over 190,000 Americans dead, with unemployment soaring and our nation torn by racial strife and political battling, it’s understandable to be feeling a bit numb; to feel you just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to pause and to hold space in your hearts and in your psyches for this anniversary. I get it. But maybe that’s exactly why it’s so important for us to do so. If families who lost loved ones still have the courage to grieve, if first responders still have the fortitude to keep responding, then surely we can find it in ourselves to honor them by remembering.
Honoring and remembering 9/11 is important, not only because it created a line in the sand, a before and after for so many people (and for our nation), but because we made a promise 19 years ago to “never forget.” If we shrug off that promise, if we get tired of keeping it, we will have lost something good and honorable in ourselves – the capacity to learn from the past and to feel with the brokenhearted. Born of shared sorrow, what ignited in our hearts 19 years ago was compassion, empathy, strength and unity. And one of the ways we keep these flames alive by remembering.
“As we look back and recall where we were,” writes Rev. Jill Duffield, “who was with us and how we felt that fateful day, may those vivid memories compel us to acts of kindness, words of love and demonstrations of community. May the myriad images of helpers – firefighters, police officers, office workers, ordinary citizens – be the icons that inspire us to be helpers, too. May the texts and voicemails of “I love you” and “You are everything to me” assure us that love always has the last word, but that we should never wait to say it.”
In closing, I offer you this prayer from Hindu monk, Radhanath Swami:
“While our landmarks collapsed in a cloud of smoke and debris, beneath a surge of shock and rage, something awakened in our hearts: compassion…In memory of this tragic day, let us join hands and pray for God’s grace to heal, unite and empower us to serve with love.”
May it be so.