By Sister Lois Anne Palkert, OSF
The tragic day that changed America and the world forever was somberly commemorated the weekend of September 11. “Never Forget” was the heartfelt refrain after the attacks. The National September 11 Memorial Museum, which opened in May, 2014, is dedicated to those who lost their lives and to ensure, once again, that the world will “Never Forget”.
The museum’s 110,000 square feet of exhibition space is located seven stories below the 9/11 Memorial in the bedrock foundations—the archaeological center of the World Trade Center site. A variety of fascinating exhibits reveal the makeup of New York City’s impressive bedrock, like a 450-million-year-old chunk of Manhattan schist, excavated in August, 2008. The Museum offers displays of artifacts from the World Trade Center and the 9/11 attacks, interactive exhibitions, contemplative areas and programs that convey individual and collective stories relating the experiences of survivors, responders, area residents and eyewitnesses. A memorial exhibition honors the individual victims of the attacks.
On his visit to New York City last September, Pope Francis descended into the 9/11 Memorial Museum and presided over a multi-faith prayer ceremony. “We can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religion”, the Pope said. “Together we are called to say ‘no’ to every attempt to impose uniformity and ‘yes’ to a diversity accepted and reconciled”. Alongside leaders from many faith traditions, he prayed before the raw slurry wall that protects the World Trade Center site, “its symbolic power never more evident than on that day”, according to Judith Dupre, author of One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building.
In the 15 years since 9/11 nine structures have arisen in the area surrounding the site which now “bubbles with holy effervescence.” “Amid, sorrow, anger and every nuance of emotion in between,” Dupre reflects, “there is relief that this small patch is nearly rebuilt. Construction and healing continue. “There is very little indifference toward the new World Trade Center”, Dupre, remarked. “Every inch of it has been politicized, scrutinized, and criticized – and yet thousands come daily to witness what has been reclaimed there and to rejoice in its beauty and vitality.”
Resistance to a “diversity accepted and reconciled” usually means there is something still to understand. We are reminded that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. When we acknowledge the strength of our diversity, Dupre claims, we are capable of what seems impossible. Hope does spring eternal even and especially when our dreams of equality, peace and unity seem just out of reach.
We acknowledge that “God is good, all the time”. We, however, stumble on the “all the time”. We want only light and not darkness. “To help reconcile the two there is a rich inventory of signs and symbols in downtown (New York) that allow us to reflect on the particular glory of our idiosyncratic species, individuals who are irrevocably bound together, each of us bearing unique gifts and the wisdom to share them, and to see them in each other.”
My confidence that we will “Never Forget” increases as I witness a willingness to be in dialogue that leads to understanding our differences and celebrating our unique gifts and wisdom and sharing them with one another in this our Centennial Year and beyond.