OPINION: Looking for laughter after 9/11 - Word&Way

OPINION: Looking for laughter after 9/11

It’s coming. The sun’s daily rise and set prompts the inexorable turn of calendar pages and guarantees it.

This Sept. 11 marks 10 years since the day the world stood still as 19 terrorists commandeered four huge jets and flew them into New York City’s World Trade Center towers, into the Pentagon and into the ground.

Norman Jameson

More than 3,000 people died, and a nation took to its sick bed.

Those whose hurt hasn’t healed, and media who excavate a trove of emotional stories from pain, cannot allow an anniversary of such magnitude to pass without notice.

Alan Sherouse, pastor of Metro Baptist Church in New York City, says it is often outsiders and media who manufacture the pageant of pain around such anniversaries. New Yorkers are too busy in their daily lives to give it much notice until the din of forced recall becomes so loud they all must pause — and remember.

Sometimes we are too self-absorbed in our own hurts to realize the enormous pains endured by other occupants of our shared planet.

Not to diminish either event, but for the sake of some perspective I remind that Nazi Germans exterminated an average of 3,618 persons every day from Dec. 7, 1941 when Chelmno became operable until the armistice was signed May 7, 1945. It was a 9/11 every single day for 1,247 days.

The blow America absorbed on Sept. 11, 2001, was mighty. But twice as many Americans have died (http://projects .washingtonpost.com/fallen/) executing our military response. We briefly enjoyed the world’s empathy, expressed by the French headline Sept. 12 that said, “We are all Americans today.” But we spent that currency in a shockingly frivolous manner.

The hazard of the pending national remembrance day for 9/11 victims and their families is that rhetoric and fervor will increase anti-Muslim sentiment. Already politicians and television evangelists use it to raise alarm — and money.

Do you really think Muslims in America want to be ruled by the strict Islamic sharia law (http://www.religioustolerance.org/islsharia.htm) they fled in other countries?

Islam did not create the disaster. Terrorists flew the planes — misguided, evil men who happened to be Muslim. In the same way misguided and evil Anders Breivik happened to claim a Christian identity in Norway. Who doesn’t recoil to hear Breivik referred to as a “right wing, Christian fundamentalist?”

Will we use the anniversary day to extend a hand across the religious and cultural chasm between whatever we claim as our own identity and the person on the other side who describes himself or herself with other terms?

Many intend to do so. An interfaith group called Prepare New York is helping those in the city, where attention will be focused. Others around the country are organizing special events.

New York City pastor, author and stand up comic Susan Sparks was volunteering with the Red Cross the day after 9/11 taking inbound search calls. A woman called looking for her husband, and described what he wore when he left for work in one of the towers.

The woman started to laugh and said, “Oh, he left with the worst tie on.” Sparks didn’t know how to respond.

Then the woman said, “I’m sorry if humor seems inappropriate, but it’s all my family and I have left now.”

Laughter was a lifeboat in the rough sea of grief and loss. As we face the anniversary of a tidal wave, we’ll know we are healed when the next anniversaries simply come and go, and our tears are dried by smiles.

Norman Jameson is a contributing writer for the Religious Herald.