I went to my church’s evening 9/11 service. It was packed, which surprised me, since not many people were there in the morning service. There was a lot of patriotism there. Flags were taped onto every pew, and the red, white, and blue adorned the church’s windows. There was a huge flag in the front of the sanctuary. We said the Pledge of Allegiance, something I had not said in a long time. We honored every one who was in the military, and we sang the songs of the Coast Guard, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Marines, and also “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America”. Firefighters, police officers, the American Legion, the town’s mayor, and a State Senator were also present. I guess that it’s not surprising that the mayor was there, since my church is the only one in town. (Yes, the town where I live is that small.)
Our liturgy honored the heroes of 9/11: those who went into burning buildings, police officers who died trying to keep order, and people who gave to charity. We also commemorated people who died, especially people from our county.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the service was the story that a member of the congregation (Tom) told us about his experiences as an air-traffic controller on 9/11. As many of you know, flights on 9/11 were ordered to land at the nearest airport (except for the planes carrying the Bin-Ladens out of the country, as those of you who watched Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 know). Tom said that most of the pilots complied, except for one, and he complied after F-16s were sent up to greet him! Tom was talking about the precision that is ordinarily required for his work, and how 9/11 was chaotic and forced air-traffic controllers to rely on their experience and instinct. The newer air-traffic controllers did not know what to do, and so they had to give way to the ones with more experience.
I’ll stop here. I’ve shut off the comments because I don’t want to get into a debate about the wedding of Christianity with nationalism, or the legitimacy of America’s use of military force around the world.