Monday, September 13, 2004

Responses to Terrorism: Some Powerful Thoughts

As I am in heavy-duty work avoidance mode today, I have been surfing the web among various blogs, and the curious little places to which following links at random may take you. Along the way, I've found some quotes that are, I think, quite insightful; and I wanted to call these to your attention.

The first comes from an account written by Adam Mayblum, who was at work in his office on the 87th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center when the first hijacked airliner crashed into his building just four floors above. He details his reactions, and the process of getting out of the building, in an article that reads as if it was written very shortly thereafter; perhaps within days of the event. Towards the end, he offers this: If you want to kill us, leave us alone, because we will do it by ourselves. If you want to make us stronger, attack, and we unite."

The second comes from an email that was circulated on one of the clergy lists. It was written by Bishop Theophanes of the Orthodox Diocese of Vladikavkaz and Stavropol to the people of Northern Ossetia in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the school in Beslan. He wrote,
I cannot tell you: do not cry. I cannot tell you: do not grieve. No one has that right. I only implore you: do not despair. Do not be downcast. Yes, it is difficult, extremely difficult for you. But life continues, and we should stand up so that we do not give in to the problems created by those who planned this monstrous act and who await panic, weakness of spirit and will, and chaos from the people of Ossetia and all Russia, that leads to even greater tragedy.

...panic, weakness of spirit and will, and chaos... that leads to even greater tragedy. I think this hits the nail right on the head. We cannot allow ourselves to be deterred from pursuing the vision that draws us forward by the actions of those who seek to block our way, or turn us from the path. (This is why I have thought that the best "memorial" at Ground Zero would have been to rebuild the twin towers to look exactly as they did before the attacks -- as a real "in your face" to those who think they can change reality by the destruction of these "symbols.") Vladika Theophanes also had this very important message for us: "Truly our righteous anger and feelings should not result in general hatred and interethnic enmity, for it will be followed by an ocean of tears and impasse.

I must confess to feeling torn about my own response to the question of how to deal with terrorists. There is a part of me that wants to say that society has the right, if not the obligation, to remove the "mad dogs" and "wolves" from our midst; and this by any means necessary. I confess to a primal reaction to those who would threaten my family, or those who have otherwise come under my protection -- if I can stop you, I will; and I will use as much force as I deem necessary to achieve this goal. If you strike, I will, to the best of my ability, hunt you down and kill you. Ah, and there's the rub, as I am quite certain that this is not supposed to be my response as an Orthodox Christian, much less as a priest. May God help us and guide us in sorting this out, and in transforming who we are, so that what we think and do and say are pleasing to Him, and helpful to each other.

Let Us Also Remember...
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, which stood opposite the World Trade Center, and was destroyed when the towers collapsed. Only two icons and a few books and items for the altar were recovered from this church, built by Greek immigrants in the 19th century, and recipients of some icons given as a gift by the Tsar-Martyr Nikolai II, last emperor of Russia. As I recall, no one was in the church when the building was destroyed; no one died in the church, which is being rebuilt. But it raises another question: Does anyone know if there were any Orthodox Christians (of any jursidiction) among those who died that day? I've never seen or heard any discussion of this; but if there were, I'd very much appreciate receiving their names, so that they can be remembered at proskomede, and at those Divine Liturgies offered in remembrance of the departed, and in our general pannikhidas. If you have any information about this, please send it to me.

Help in Finding Missing Girl
Many of you know me as the guy who, when he gets those "help us find..." emails, runs off immediately to the Urban Legends home page; and then sends you (and everyone else to who you sent your original message) a link to the information debunking the claim made in the email you forwarded to me. So, when I ran across this article ("Missing Girl") at the "Politburo Diktat" blogsite, I once again trundled over there to check it out. There was no indication whatsoever that this is a hoax; or that it is a matter that has been resolved. Accordingly, if you could keep your eyes open for Tamika Huston, and pass along to others this URL: Who knows? And may God help her, and keep her safe, and restore her to her family.