Thank you for this great privilege, inviting me to offer closing thoughts as part of this sixth anniversary 9/11 commemoration and for granting me the honor of sharing in this public ceremony with such a distinguished cross-section of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the larger northeast region, especially the families whose loved ones we fondly remember with precious and poignant recollection and in whose memory we seek a better world.
This is a far different place for me to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually than six years ago as I sat with Loretta Filipov in the privacy of her home in Concord, MA, in stunned disbelief and horror as together we witnessed on television the breaking news and vivid images of the collapsing twin towers of the World Trade Center and as we realized in numbing, painful, and gut-wrenching ways that her beloved husband, Al, was among those on flight eleven, the first to crash into the north tower. Those seemingly endless hours are as vivid to me today as they were then and so is the knowledge that the world we inherited, a world which was already well known to others before it reached our shores, is dramatically different than it was on September 10th, 2001, and is destined to be different for generations to come, especially if, in the memory of those whom we have loved and so tragically lost on 9/11, we fail to shape well the legacy we have been given, a challenging legacy surely unsought and certainly unwelcome.
In the wake of 9/11, I have been concerned about several things, but especially about the creeping crisis of trust and resulting culture of suspicion pervading our life together. They have fed a deeply felt fear that has frequently outdistanced our faith, faith in ourselves, faith in one another, faith in the One who gives us life and grants it meaning, and faith in the future. The dignity of difference so valued before God and cherished by us for the richness it commends to our shared life has too often been hijacked by prejudice and bigotry since 9/11. In too many places, hate has trumped love and despair has replaced hope. In our obsession with terrorists, extremists and religious fanatics, as understandable as that concern may be, we have unfortunately legitimized the use of force and violence throughout life and compromised our ability to embrace as fully as we might our incredible capacity as a people for goodness, compassion, understanding, and respect as the primary building blocks to a better world. In our angriest if not most frustrating moments, we have sometimes allowed the unbridled urge for revenge to overrule not only our sense of decency but our absolutely essential and desperately needed capacity for reconciliation, an admittedly long, difficult, and even painful process at times. We have mistaken short-term and sometimes misguided if not selfish fixes to life